Career Center seeks levy to expand technical training access

The Upper Valley Career Center campus in Piqua. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
The Upper Valley Career Center campus in Piqua. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The Upper Valley Career Center serves a dozen school districts in Miami and Shelby counties.

Voters in a dozen north Miami Valley school districts will decide this fall whether to approve a tax increase to support the Upper Valley Career Center’s educational programs.

The levy on the Nov. 5 ballot is a permanent 1.5-mill measure that would raise another $3.8 million per year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home an extra $52.50 annually. UVCC offers more than two dozen high school programs ranging from electrical trades and automotives to interactive media and culinary arts.

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Career center levies are only voted on by residents of the school districts the career center serves. For Upper Valley, that means Troy, Piqua, Covington, Newton and Bradford in Miami County, plus all of the Shelby County districts — Sidney, Anna, Botkins, Fairlawn, Fort Loramie, Jackson Center, and Russia.

Upper Valley officials say the levy funds would pay to upgrade and maintain facilities, buses and equipment, as well as expanding access to programs both at the Piqua main campus and at the partner high schools.

Superintendent Nancy Luce said the main campus is near capacity at 973 students, and UVCC is increasing efforts to host career tech classes at the partner high school sites, where over 3,400 students already participate at one level or another.

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“There is a significant percentage that really would benefit from access to more career technical training in their (home high school),” she said, citing discussions with those schools, as well as employers and regional economic development leaders. “This would provide programming and skill building earlier, from seventh grade on, that will allow them to … earn the credentials and receive the training they need to be better-prepared for post-high school.”

If the levy passes, some of the funds will pay to hire instructors to teach more classes at more schools. Luce pointed to new career tech programs that just started at Piqua High School in health care and mechatronics.

“The two teachers who are teaching those programs are (UVCC) main campus teachers who go to Piqua High School for a portion of the day,” Luce said. “Even this first year, we had more students express interest than we could actually serve. … It is our intention to grow these programs, which would mean we’re going to need additional staff.”

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Luce said UVCC is in discussions to hire part-time instructors for proposed manufacturing and construction engineering programs at Sidney High School. Those decisions are made in partnership with each local high school, often based on local career opportunities.

“We’re at a point where, once we open applications for each new school year, we have waiting lists within hours for most of our main campus programs,” Luce said.

Career centers around the Dayton region are in growth mode, as employers in recent years have cited a shortage of new employees with technical training. The Greene County Career Center is building a new, larger school, and the Miami Valley Career Tech Center broke ground on a significant expansion this year, as both try to increase the number of students they can serve. Voters approved bond levies for those schools in 2018 and 2017, respectively.

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UVCC’s levy would pay for some facility updates, but not new construction. School officials said they need to expand an undersized welding lab for students, and hope to install HVAC and lighting upgrades that will decrease utility costs.

State funding for UVCC increased just slightly from 2013-16 – a period when main campus enrollment also inched up, but partner-school enrollment rose from 2,777 to 3,218. State funding increased from $8.97 million to $10.22 million from 2016-19 as main campus enrollment rose by more than 20 percent and satellite enrollment hit 3,417.

Treasurer Anthony Fraley said the levy request comes just after Upper Valley Career Center paid off a bond for a previous main campus renovation, reducing resident taxes on a $100,000 home by $16 per year.

Luce said the last time UVCC voters passed an additional tax for daily operating costs was 2000.

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