Maine Community College System officials are hoping voters will support Question 5 on the Nov. 6 ballot, which proposes a $15 million bond to upgrade facilities at each of the state’s seven community colleges.
“In the past, we’ve been successful with the voters,” Maine Community College System President Derek Langhauser said. “I think the voters understand that the community colleges are a very good value: the low-cost access to the education, and the high quality of the education, and then its high return. Our graduates get jobs, and they get jobs at a higher wage rate than if they did not pursue the education. And everybody wins.”
Langhauser’s comments came Wednesday after a celebration on KVCC’s Hinckley campus, where the school and Central Maine Power welcomed a new, expanded home for the longstanding electrical line worker technology program.
According to a Question 5 overview provided by the community college system, the $15 million bond, if approved, would be divided among Maine’s seven community college campuses. Kennebec Valley would receive nearly $2.2 million to renovate and expand industrial trade classrooms and laboratories, along with information technology infrastructure, heating, and ventilation upgrades and energy-efficiency investments.
Anne Lagassey, KVCC’s dean of finance and administration, said the bond proceeds would allow the school to re-evaluate and renovate the space on the Fairfield campus vacated by the line-worker program in its move to Hinckley.
Lagassey noted that the space provides opportunities for the Fairfield school’s other trade programs, including welding, precision machining, plumbing and energy, electrical technology, applied electronics and computer technology.
The bond would be shared by community colleges on a pro-rated basis determined by enrollment, according to Langhauser.
Central Maine Community College in Auburn would receive more than $2.5 million for renovations, expansion and improved energy efficiency, including upgrades to its nursing simulation laboratories and automotive technology wing and classrooms.
Langhauser said the community college system last asked voters for a bond in November 2013. That $15.5 million bond was approved by 65 percent of voters.
Langhauser, who previously served as legal counsel for the state community college system, is optimistic about his ability to secure continued support for the system from Maine’s next governor, no matter who emerges victorious in the race for the Blaine House.
“You can develop relationships, but it’s the merits of the argument,” Langhauser said. “And I like my case.”
Gubernatorial candidates — independent Terry Hayes, Democrat Janet Mills and Republican Shawn Moody — have signaled support for the community college bond question.
Hayes, who is Maine’s state treasurer, called it a “win-win” for the state’s workers and employers.
“Our community colleges offer a wide variety of opportunities for workforce training at a very reasonable price,” Hayes said. “Employers across Maine are struggling to find qualified applicants to fill existing positions.”
Mills, who is Maine’s attorney general, cited a “serious workforce shortage” facing the state and said the Maine Community College System “will play a critical role in solving it by training students for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”
“From the trades to computer sciences, our state needs to expand educational opportunities and that is what I will do as governor, beginning with supporting Question 5,” Mills said.
Businessman Moody’s campaign manager, Lauren LePage, said the Republican candidate supports Question 5, which LePage called “a worthwhile investment in programming for Maine students” that will “help with our efforts to grow Maine’s economy.”
“Shawn is the only candidate in this race with over 40 years of executive experience creating jobs and growing Maine’s economy,” LePage said. He knows that one of the biggest challenges facing Maine is growing our workforce.”
Moody was on the board of trustees for both the Maine Community College and University of Maine systems after being nominated by Gov. Paul LePage, Lauren LePage’s father.
The governor supports all four bond questions on the November ballot and sees them as good capital investments for the state, according to his press secretary, Julie Rabinowitz.
Question 4 asks voters to weigh in on a proposed $49 million bond for facilities and infrastructure improvements at Maine’s public universities. Questions 2 and 3 deal with wastewater treatment and transportation bonds, respectively.
“In particular, the education bonds are also investments in our workforce and in keeping and attracting young people to the state,” Rabinowitz said in an email Thursday.
Derek Langhauser, left, president of the Maine Community College System, speaks with Dwight Littlefield during an open house in the expanded electrical line workers technology program at Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield on Wednesday. (David Leaming/Morning Sentinel)