Folks at Pearl River Community College heard a little good news Monday – they’ll probably get through the school year without losing any more funding.
Eighteen consecutive months of falling tax revenue meant most state agencies, including community college, were asked to cut their budgets more than once in fiscal 2010.
“The good news is five out of the last six months, we’ve met tax projections,” said Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg. “I don’t think there will be mid-year budget cuts, but the growth is microscopic.”
Members of the Forrest County Center PRCC Faculty Association and students met with four area legislators, Sen. Tom King, R-Petal; Rep. Larry Byrd, R-Petal; Rep. Harvey Fillingane, R-Sumrall; and Barker.
“I enjoyed it,” said radiography student Logan Holden of Poplarville. “I thought it kind of gave us a bird’s eye view of the state and what’s going on.”
While the state’s economy grows at a snail’s pace, enrollment at the state’s 15 community colleges is booming, said PRCC President Dr. William Lewis.
Statewide, 88,000 students are enrolled in a community college this semester, 11,000 more than are attending a four-year institution, he said. Of the state’s freshmen, 70 percent are attending community college and 97 percent of community college students live in Mississippi, he said.
“We have a lot of needs,” Lewis said. “We continue to grow. We continue to need help. These are the folks we can count on.”
The economy downturn appears to have bottomed out but recovery won’t be quick, Fillingane said.
“As far as real solid growth goes, we’ll have to have new jobs,” he said.
King agreed recovery will be slow.
“They’re telling us 2014 or 2015 to get to where we were five years ago,” King said.
Byrd predicted South Mississippi will benefit from reapportionment this year as well as economic factors such as expansion of the Port of Gulfport and the opening of the Stion solar panel plant in Hattiesburg.
“Because of the shift in population, we’ll see more lobbying efforts for South Mississippi,” he said.
The Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association (HHDA) will host three representatives of a Rotary Group Study Exchange program from England, Wednesday, October 20, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. The Downtown visit will be in response to a specific request from the group for information related to a variety of government and private sector involvements.
According to Rowell a walking tour of Downtown followed by an information session is planned. “A Forum will allow us to cover several of their preferred topics, and we will show them some of our projects and talk about how we collaborate between various organizations, Rowell said.
Members of the Group Study Exchange participating in the Downtown event include: Pamela Burns, Team Leader, who has a particular interest in Organizational Development and Change Management programs, specifically working with staff to minimize vulnerabilities and maintaining motivation at times of great uncertainties. Kate Lang is committed to taking forward an exciting package of regeneration and development projects which will deliver real change within her hometown of Hemel Hempstead. She is also interested in various departments of City Government and other organizations tackling the following issues including: blight, economic development and inward investment. Natalie Sullivan works as a Business Improvement District Ranger and her particular interest is Downtown Development District.
“This is a good opportunity to exchange ideas and to share information that will help them and will be beneficial to us as well, “Betsy Rowell, Executive Director of Historic Downtown Hattiesburg said.
The schedule for the visit will be: 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. Downtown Tour, and a Roundtable Discussion in the Cultural Center, 10 a.m. – 11:30 p.m. Following the Roundtable Discussion, the HHDA Design Committee is hosting lunch at 11:45 –1 p.m. at the Cultural Center.
Participants in the Roundtable Discussion include: Andrew Murff, ADP, Economic Development – Retail vs. Industrial; Catherine Lott, ADP, Special Events Coordination; Kristie Fairley, VisitHattiesburg, Marketing a Community; Andrea Saffle, Historic Neighborhoods, Promoting Neighborhood Development. Representatives of the City of Hattiesburg also participating in the Roundtable include: Bert Kuyrkendall, City Engineer; Ann Jones, Grounds Maintenance; Pattie Brantley, Urban Planning; Franklyn Tate, Federal Funding; Justin Heskew, Historic Planning. House of Representative member, Toby Barker is also schedule to participate.
Information about this event may be obtained by calling the Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association t 601-583-4329.