The Erie Community Foundation Board of Trustees Endorses Plan for a Community College that is Tax Free Sustainability

May 24, 2017


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On May 22, 2017, The Erie Community Foundation Board of Trustees approved a Resolution that acknowledges its support for the June 2017 “Proposal for the Establishment of a Public Community College in Erie, Pennsylvania” as prepared by Empower Erie.  The proposal is also known as the “Erie Community College Plan and Application.”

Briefings on financial plans held by officials of Empower Erie Monday earned the endorsement of the Erie Community Foundation and drew applause at a public forum at the Blasco Library.  Financial studies indicate a community college for Erie County could operate for its initial five years without tax dollars.  "Gaming revenue that will become available when the airport runway is paid for later this year and other retired debt in the amount of $3.8 million could be used to fully fund a community college for five years," said Empower Erie Chair and co-founder Ron DiNicola.  "This is a very innovative approach," said Erie Community Foundation President Mike Bachelor, "this could allow the college to grow and establish tax free sustainability."  If we can spend money on asphalt and concrete, we can spend it on human capital," he said.

“In addition to this plan not raising taxes on Erie County homeowners, research shows that when there is an increase in education, there is an increase in per capita income,” Batchelor added.  “Currently, 37% of Erie’s population does not have a college degree, and the national number is 18%.  As additional education becomes the norm, Erie becomes more attractive to new businesses, which increases the tax base and increases property values.”

“The manufacturing community estimates 50% of the Erie County workforce will retire in the next ten years, and thousands of Erie workers affected by layoffs by major employers over the past two years need open, affordable, local access to post-secondary education.  Most new jobs will require post-secondary training, but not a bachelor’s degree,” said Tim Hunter, chairman of The Erie Community Foundation Board of Trustees.  “A community college can meet the educational needs of Erie’s employers of manufacturing, health care, cyber security and education.”

The priorities of the community college will reflect the priorities and needs of the Erie community and educational needs of the workforce.  There is an urgent need for affordable, accessible post-secondary job training in Erie County. Erie County’s unemployment rate is higher than the state and the nation.  Jobs in the manufacturing sector alone fell by 8.6% (1,900 jobs) in the last 12 months.

The Erie Community Foundation also supports and encourages Erie County Government to adopt a formal Erie County Resolution to:

A. Approve, adopt and endorse the Erie Community College Plan and Application;

B. Establish Erie County as the local sponsor of the proposed Erie Community College as set forth in the Erie Community College Plan and Application; and

C. Submit the Erie Community College Plan and Application to the Pennsylvania Department of Education for its approval in order to establish a stand-alone community college in Erie County, Pennsylvania

The Foundation supports the Erie Community College Plan and Application and encourages the Pennsylvania Department of Education to approve said Plan.

 Empower Erie, a nonprofit recipient of an Erie Community Foundation Shaping Tomorrow grant, is charged with establishing an Erie County Community College.  In September 2016, The Erie Community Foundation, The Susan Hirt Hagen Fund for Transformational Philanthropy and the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority jointly awarded $300,000 to Empower Erie to study the feasibility of creating a stand-alone community college for Erie. Upon approval of the results of the study, another $3.7 million will be available to Empower Erie to implement the Community College plan.

The Erie Community Foundation works to improve the quality of life for all in our region by evaluating and addressing community issues, building permanent charitable endowments and promoting philanthropic and community leadership.