Owens Community College is considering amending its charter so it could seek a levy to offset declining funds.
Owens President Mike Bower has formed a committee to explore ways to raise new revenue, Board of Trustees Chairman Rich Rowe said, with one of those options a levy. The college has hired consulting firm Burges & Burges Strategists to help it build a case for amending its charter, test the feasibility of the change and levy request, and help Owens in its conversion.
As a state community college, Owens cannot place a levy on the ballot. It would need to alter its charter by becoming what’s known as a community college district with approval by the Ohio Board of Regents. It would then need to have a levy approved by voters within a year; otherwise, it would convert back into a state school.
Burges & Burges wrote that local investment in other community colleges has been important for their success, and that a small levy would strengthen the local economy. “Thus, we propose to work with Owens to study the feasibility of achieving state designations as a full ‘community college,’ then passing a levy within one year as required to retain its full-scale community college charter,” the firm said.
The college twice considered a levy last decade, in 2001 and 2004. Both times, the college decided against it.
“We have a committee that is exploring several different ways to try to raise revenue,” Mr. Rowe said. “[A levy is] just one of the options that is being explored.”
Burges & Burges was hired in December, and its $55,000 contract ends June 30. The firm held a forum with Owens employees on May 15, has additional employee meetings planned, and has met with “community stakeholders,” an Owens spokesman said.
Both James Carter, president of the Wood County Commissioners, and Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins said they had not met with Owens representatives or the consulting firm about a possible levy.
“It’s far too early to be planning a levy or anything like that,” an Owens spokesman said.
Owens has cut millions from its budget in recent years with a significant drop in enrollment and a decline in state funding. Enrollment at Owens dropped 13.7 percent in the fall from 2012 to 14,674 students. In the fall of 2009, enrollment was at 23,606.