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Trustees Jeff Flessner and Becky Ropp listen to a presentation at Tuesday night's meeting of the Heartland Community College board of trustees at its campus in Normal.

NORMAL — Heartland Community College's Lincoln Center will be moving to a new, larger location next year with expanded programming, including the addition of programs for certified nursing assistants and precision agriculture.

The college's board of trustees, at its meeting Tuesday, approved the Lincoln plans; a $13.2 million property tax levy that is expected to result in a slight drop in the tax rate.

In recommending approval, President Rob Widmer said, “I like to think of this as a short-term action to support a long term investment in our community and our workforce.”

Heartland anticipates approximately $430,000 in one-time expenses for remodeling, furniture, fixtures, information technology and other start-up costs.

Heartland currently leases facilities in downtown Lincoln for $42,000 a year. The lease for the new facility will be $62,000 but the cost per square foot will be about $9.01 rather than the current $10.60.

Heartland President Rob Widmer said the move offers “some real exciting prospects for Lincoln.”

One of those is the addition of a certified nursing assistant program. College officials said CNAs are in high demand.

The expansion of St. Clara's Manor in Lincoln and an aging population are expected to continue that demand, according to Kristi Powell, associated director of the Heartland Lincoln Center.

Equipment and various state approvals will be needed to start up the program, but the college hopes to have the first classes starting by spring 2019 and possibly by the second half of the fall 2018 semester.

College officials said the staff is looking into possible equipment donations to help kick-start the program.

The college also plans to add precision agriculture programs. These would be certificate or two-year associate's degree programs aimed at immediate employment after completion, rather than transfer to a four-year school. Powell said they would cover specific technology used in agriculture, such as drones, GPS systems on farm equipment.

The new location also will enable the college to expand its offerings in adult education, continuing education and general academic core courses.

Rick Pearce, vice president for learning and student success, said there is a long waiting list for adult education classes in Lincoln.

Tax levy

College officials anticipate the equalized assessed valuation of the district will increase about 2 percent. That would result in the district's tax rate dropping by 1.2 cents per $100 assessed valuation to just under 58 cents per $100 assessed valuation.

That would mean the owner of a $165,000 home would pay about $317, a decrease of about $7, assuming the assessed value of their property didn't change.

Follow Lenore Sobota on Twitter: @pg_sobota

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Education Reporter

Education Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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