Tillamook Chamber endorses TBCC bond

by Justin Aufdermauer
Executive Director

There’s roughly a week left to cast your ballot in the May Primary Election, and I wanted to use this time to endorse one of the local measures that the Tillamook Chamber Executive Board believes will have a positive impact for the community. (Yes, I know some of you may have already sent in your ballots. But for those of you who are still mulling over which bubbles to fill in, we hope this helps!)

The Tillamook Chamber of Commerce supports Tillamook Bay Community College’s $14.4 million bond measure to raise money to build a new healthcare education building. The Chamber’s Executive Board reviewed the bond measure and found several reasons to endorse it. It’s great for workforce development, it meets community needs for meeting spaces and it doesn’t increase the current TBCC bond tax rate. It also aligns well with the City of Tillamook’s timeline for updating the sewer system to support more construction. I’ll cover all of that more in depth later in this piece, but for now, I’ll start with another huge plus.

The bond will help the college capture $8 million matching grant from the Oregon state legislature. That means the bond will go further than it normally would, because there is extra funding available. But that matching grant only comes our way if the college passes its bond and can front the other half of the project bill. The Chamber sees it as imperative that we leverage these matching grant resources while we have the opportunity.

Workforce is a significant issue for all sectors, and while this is a complex issue, the TBCC bond will play a huge role in supporting and developing our local workforce, especially when it comes to healthcare professionals. The money raised through the bond will be used to build a new healthcare education building. With this, the college can add a nursing program, add more healthcare occupational training programs and provide a space to expand and add new degrees and certificates. As it stands, TBCC is the only community college in Oregon that does not have a dedicated healthcare education program. Successfully passing this bond would change that and bring us in line with the rest of the state.

A 2022 report by the Oregon Employment Department shows that the healthcare and social assistance industry in Northwest Oregon, which includes Tillamook, had the second most number of vacancies in 2021. But nursing assistants, mental health counselors and personal care aids were in the top 20 most difficult to fill positions. That tells me that we have openings — that we need doctors and nurses and hospital support staff — but we aren’t able to fill them. A training program right in our backyard, of residents that already live here, will create a larger pool to fill those necessary jobs. I think it speaks for itself to know that the bond not only has the Chamber’s support, but also the support of Adventist Health Tillamook — one of our largest local employers

Another plus of the bond? The new healthcare building will open up another large community space that could be used for meetings, gatherings and events by all kinds of groups. TBCC is a great partner when it comes to renting out their classrooms and building spaces for an affordable rate. This new building will be no different. In fact, the need for a new meeting space is something the community told the college it wanted in 2019 with a study on the education interests of Tillamook County. TBCC listened to those responses and found a way to meet those needs.

Finally, the bond measure won’t change the amount you’re paying toward taxes for TBCC-related projects. The last time TBCC referred a bond measure to voters was 2006. That bond helped build the main college building on Third Street and upgrade and construct college facilities at the high schools in the county. It passed with an estimated tax rate of 19 cents per $1,000 assessed value, or about $67 annually on a $350,000 home, for a 20-year duration. That bond debt will be paid off in 2027. And as it turns out, the actual tax rates have been less over the period of the 2006 bond.

If the proposed measure passes, the tax rate would remain an estimated rate of 19 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for a 20-year duration. That includes the years the two bonds overlap.  That means that Tillamook has a rare opportunity to extend the college’s building capacity for two more decades at the very same rate we’ve paid since 2006. TBCC isn’t asking for a rate hike — just our continued support. That’s pretty amazing.

And now for what might be considered the elephant in the room for some. If you’ve been reading the Chamber Chatters or listening in to City Council meetings, you may know that the city’s sewer system for everything east of Miller Avenue is critically near capacity. So you might ask, “How can a full sewer system support another, large building at the college? Is this TBCC project really a good idea?”

That’s a fair question, the Chamber has been in conversations with both the college and the City of Tillamook about just this. While the sewer capacity concerns should remain top priority, the timeline to correct the sewer lines coincides well with the college’s construction timeline. We have every reason to believe the sewer infrastructure concerns will be resolved by the time the college builds and opens their healthcare building. Often times when public projects like these align it elevates the priority of both and our community will benefit from the project synergy.

This project will benefit the local workforce, keep our local healthcare talent in our community and take advantage of an $8 million match from the state that we can’t afford to miss out on. For these reasons, the Chamber supports the TBCC bond measure. Join us in our support by saying Yes to TBCC on this May’s ballot.