College officials are rallying the community behind a bill in the Florida legislature in Tallahassee that is poised to inject needed funding to the College.
“Miami Dade College has well over a billion dollars in unmet needs,” said Juan Mendieta, director of communications. “While this is a wonderful institution with the best faculty in the nation, we still have some areas to improve for our students.”
State funding has dropped from 75 percent to below 50 percent in recent years. It also receives zero contributions from Miami-Dade county. This has forced the institution to mostly rely on its tuition revenue, which is intentionally low because one of the cornerstones of MDC’s mission is providing students with a high quality education at an affordable price.
For this reason, the administration is strongly lobbying for a bill that is awaiting a vote on in the Florida House of Representatives floor. The bill that would give Miami-Dade county citizens the ability to enact a half-cent sales tax increase (from the current seven percent to 7.5 percent) to provide the college with extra funding.
If approved, the bill, formally known as HB 113, is estimated to raise $224 million annually according to the Florida House of Representatives Finance and Tax staff. The surtax would be in effect for five years, thereby raising over $1.1 billion in total revenue.
The administration would use this money to renovate and properly maintain its facilities as well as update and expand the technology that is available.
This is not the first time that this bill has been proposed. Last year, the same bill, with the exception of an elongated ten-year lifespan, was proposed yet failed because legislators in the House of Representatives utilized a filibuster-like action that prevented the bill from being heard before the session ended.
In total, this is the fourth time that the same half-penny bill has been proposed.
“I’m not willing to put up with it anymore,” Miami Dade College president , Eduardo Padrón, told a crowd during a recent speech at the Kendall Campus gymnasium to promote the bill. Throughout the past few weeks, Padrón has been visiting MDC campuses to draw attention to the bill and request support.
“As much as I try, I cannot do it alone,” he said at the Kendall Campus event. “I need you to stand by me; I need you to raise your voices.”
Administrators, faculty, and students have responded to the president’s call and engaged in several ways.
On April 1, members of the Student Government Association (SGA) from all campuses visited Tallahassee until April 4. For part of the trip they were joined by other students. In the state capital, students lobbied politicians and attended a rally hosted by the Florida College System Student Government Association.
“Our institution is committed to giving us a quality education, but we need that our elected representatives to also support us in that pursuit by allowing us to place that referendum,” said Metzli Rodoli, one of the students who went on the Tallahassee lobbying trip. Rodoli is a sophomore Honors College student attending the Wolfson Campus.
Beyond the trip, SGA has also been distributing postcards on various campuses for individuals to sign. The postcards will then be collected and sent in bulk to state legislators.
“It’s about trying to get the students and faculty together because this includes everyone,” said Camila Ceballos, SGA President of the Kendall Campus.
The college is concentrating its petitioning efforts on the four key opponents to the bill: Representatives Frank Artiles, Michael Bileca, Jose Oliva, and Carlos Trujillo.
People also have the option of visiting www.voicesformdc.org to advocate for HB 113. The site has a form that sends emails to politicians. The website provides the contact information of the four key opponents to the surtax and links for getting involved on social media.
Politicians who oppose the bill worry that the surtax would provide the college with an excessive amount of funds that will be insufficiently supervised, even though an independent board would be created to provide oversight.
Despite political opposition, a Miami Herald poll with more than1,500 votes showed nearly 70 percent of the respondents would approve the half-cent sales tax.
The Florida House of Representatives is expected to make its decision during its last few days of session, with the final day being May 2.