Editor's note: This story was updated to correct the spelling of Chancellor Jim Yeonopolus' name, and the vote numbers.
Rumors were rampant Tuesday morning regarding one agenda item facing a vote by the Central Texas College Board of Trustees at its regular meeting later in the day.
The rumor circulating was that CTC’s public broadcasting station, KNCT, would be closed.
What the CTC board voted on was to rescind a vote to “repack” KNCT, originally approved in April 2017.
By not moving KNCT from channel 46 to channel 17 by mandate of the Federal Communications Commission, the station will eventually cease operations.
No date has been set for the closure, according to Barbara Merlo, CTC spokeswoman, but the station’s phase-out must be completed by the repack deadline in 2020.
The agenda item was moved up when the board meeting started, allowing all seven board members to voice their views and cast their votes.
CTC Chancellor Jim Yeonopolus described part of the reason for that previous vote to be rescinded.
“The uncertainty of government funding and the deficit incurred by the station each year” were key factors, Yeonopolus said.
The KNCT deficit numbers were not available as of Tuesday afternoon.
That uncertain government funding would come from the FCC’s Incentive Auction Relocation Reimbursement Fund System.
“The Spectrum Act requires that the FCC ‘reimburse costs reasonably incurred by’ broadcast television licensees that are reassigned to new channels, as well as by multichannel video programming distributors that incur costs related to continuing to carry the signals of broadcast stations moving to a new channel,” reads the FCC website.
“The board decision in April 2017 to participate in the spectrum auction was based on the assumption CTC would receive 100 percent reimbursement for the $4.4 million dollars needed to repack KNCT-TV,” reads the press release from CTC. “At this time, Congress has approved only 60 percent. It is possible the 40 percent will be funded, but the timeline required CTC to begin the repack process prior to finding out if the remaining reimbursement will be approved.”
Without a guarantee of such funding, CTC could not reasonably move forward with the KNCT repack, Merlo said.
Board member Don Armstrong asked that the matter be tabled by the board as long as possible. “The station is important to the Central Texas area,” he said.
Armstrong cited the current $426 million bond issue on the May 5 ballot for the Killeen Independent School District, growth in Copperas Cove and other indicators to affirm “The area is in a growing state.”
The station covers the Killeen, Temple and Waco areas.
Retired Brig. Gen. Rex Weaver, another CTC board member, appreciated Armstrong’s viewpoint, but said, “We’ve been dealing with this for over two years.”
Weaver added, “The college has been hemorrhaging money on that station every year.”
Mari Meyer, board member, asked Yeonopolus directly, “Have we really and truly done everything possible to keep the station?”
Yeonopolus replied, “We have exhausted everything we can think of.”
Other board members confirmed rescinding the repack vote was for the good of the college.
The board approved the agenda item 5 to 2, with Armstrong and Meyer casting the opposing votes.
No specific date has been set for KNCT to cease operations, Merlo said.
Weaver said viewers would not lose any of the programming currently broadcast, since local cable companies would switch to providing another PBS station.
A representative from Spectrum Cable would not comment on whether any realignment of channels would take place when KNCT ceases operations.
That CTC’s financial dilemma extends beyond funding KNCT became clear at Tuesday’s board meeting when comptroller Bob Liberty presented the interim financial statements.
Liberty told the board members, while the financial numbers appeared positive, declining enrollment was taking its toll. Part of the way the college was compensating for that lost revenue, Liberty said, “We continue to not fill positions we can hold off on.”
Copies of the financial statement were not available to the public at the board meeting.
According to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website, CTC has a current enrollment of 13,443, with only 23 percent of those being full-time students. The graduation rate is just 8 percent, and the student retention rate is 54 percent.
In other business:
Weaver swore in three new campus police officers prior to the board meeting.
Sgt. Daniel Chavez observed the ceremony. “It’s a good feeling to have other officers joining the force.” Chavez added that the number of officers currently stands at 75 percent to 80 percent of a full police force for the college.
The board approved a proposal to award a contract for over $350,000 to upgrade the global immersion full dome system at the Mayborn Science Theater on the campus.