Phase II of the Advanced Technology Center at Owensboro Community & Technical College is included in the state budget that was passed Monday by the House and Senate, Sen. Joe Bowen of Owensboro said Monday night.

Bowen said each of the state's community colleges get a project in the budget and will be paid for with bonds supported by credit hour fees of $4 per credit hour in the first year and $8 per credit hour in subsequent years until the project loans are paid off.

The size of a particular project will depend on the a school's enrollment, and community colleges will have to raise 25 percent of the project's cost in matching funds from the community.

"Size and enrollment makes a difference — and the number of credit hours," Bowen said. "If the credit hours can't support the full amount, they will need to increase the local match."

The second phase of OCTC's Advanced Technology Center is the top project on Owensboro's and Daviess County's Community Priorities list this year. It has been on the wish list for nearly every budget cycle since 2006, when the legislature halved the original ATC project.

The Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce also has been carrying the banner for the ATC, describing it as crucial for the region to ensure that it has a skilled work force ready for advanced manufacturing employers.

OCTC President Jim Klauber said last week that the fee would be OCTC's first mandatory fee and that it would be covered for about 60 percent of its students by the increase in the federal Pell Grant Program.

"This is the most fiscally responsible budget possible with split chambers," Bowen said. "It emphasizes education and funding for critical programs. I'm very pleased it presents the opportunity for our community college to move ahead with Phase II of the Advanced Technology Center."

©2014 the Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Ky.)