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Voters need to preserve investment in Mt. Hood Community College

East Multnomah County has reaped substantial educational, cultural and economic benefits from Mt. Hood Community College over the past 40 years. Today, however, those advantages are increasingly placed at risk because the college campus is rapidly deteriorating after four decades of use.

Voters can preserve their investment in the college by approving a $58 million capital bond measure in the Nov. 7 election. This is not a big-money measure for most property owners. The proposed bond levy translates to about 17 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, which means the owner of a home assessed at $200,000 would see a property tax increase of $34 a year.

For that price, local property owners will be preserving an institution that is vital to this community's quality of life. The college provides training for local workers, it offers transfer students an affordable head start into the university system and it has a huge - and often under-appreciated - effect on the local economy.

Without the college, major employers such as Boeing, Microchip and ON Semiconductor would have to look elsewhere for a trained labor force. Without the college, young people in this community would have no choice but to leave the area in pursuit of higher education.

But the college campus is aging. Roofs are leaking. Electrical and mechanical systems are obsolete. The campus is not designed to meet today's safety standards.

In addition to fixing those glaring problems, the bond measure would allocate a small amount - $2.2 million - for a new early childhood education building.

Another $13.7 million is included in the measure for a multi-use structure that would allow for even more university-level courses offered by four-year institutions. But the multi-use building is contingent upon the state providing dollar-for-dollar matching funds. If the Legislature doesn't match the $13.7 million, the college will cut that from the bond amount.

The college has a critical need to make physical improvements, but without this bond measure, it will have to continue using money from its annual operating budget to keep the campus from falling apart. The approval of Measure 26-83 would free up those operating dollars and halt the downward spiral of reduced program offerings and increased tuition.

Mt. Hood Community College is essential to East County's quality of life. Voters in the college district should renew their 40-year-old commitment to the college by voting yes on Measure 26-83.