CMC is looking to voters for some spending money | AspenTimes.com
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CMC is looking to voters for some spending money

Jeremy Heiman

Like most of us, Colorado Mountain College wants to have a little more spending money.

Referendum 4C on the November ballot is intended to allow the college to collect, retain and spend the full amount of money generated by its property taxes in this tax year and future years. As things stand, CMC can’t spend a portion of its tax money because of a referendum called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, which limits government taxing and spending.

TABOR, approved by state voters in 1992, was written by anti-tax crusader Douglas Bruce. Asking voters for permission to keep revenues in excess of TABOR limits is often called “de-Brucing.”

The college’s property tax mill levy has remained unchanged at 3.997 mills since the 1990-’91 tax year. In 1999, the mill levy generated about $38.93 for each $100,000 a house in the district is worth. Property values are determined by county assessors. If voters approve Referendum 4C, taxpayers would see approximately $8.50 per year added to their taxes for every $100,000 their house is worth, said Joe Marquez, public information officer for CMC.

The rate of growth allowed under TABOR is less than the increase in the cost of providing educational services and programs, Marquez said. Under TABOR, CMC has returned about $4 million to taxpayers in recent years. This is done by crediting each homeowner’s annual tax bill for the amount of the TABOR reduction in the previous year’s tax bill.

“We’re asking people to stop that credit, because we have some real, legitimate educational needs to fund,” Marquez said.

If voters approve this ballot question, CMC’s property tax mill levy rate will remain the same, but CMC will be allowed to retain and spend all of the revenues collected. The college will use this money mainly to fund new technology and to attract and retain faculty.

Marquez said the college needs to expand in three areas: technology, faculty salaries and facilities.

One technical deficiency at the college is the obsolete computers that faculty members now have, Marquez said. Existing funds are being spent on computers for students, leaving no money to update faculty equipment. Another, larger technical need is in educational programs.

Last year, CMC launched a Cisco networking program, which was quite successful but cost nearly $1 million, Marquez said. The school would like to follow with more technology programs, including one on Web-site construction and another on e-commerce, but the funds just aren’t there.

CMC also wants to modernize student support systems to allow online access to advising, admissions, financial aid, course registration, grades and billing information. Administrators would like to provide a better student orientation and advising system, too.

“The way things are now,” Marquez said, “a counselor can’t just get on line and look up a transcript.”

A faculty high-tech training program is on the school’s wish list, too, he said. That would help faculty members keep up with their students in technology advancements.

Faculty pay increases are also needed.

“We want to raise faculty and staff salaries, because we’re having trouble attracting and keeping faculty,” Marquez said. Faculty salaries are equal to those at comparable schools, though schools similar to CMC are difficult to find.

Peer institutions with similar salaries are located in places where the cost of living averages 23 percent less than it is in western Colorado. This makes jobs hard to fill.

“We have a human resources director position that’s been open for two years,” Marquez said.

As for buildings, he said, the college has an ongoing program to develop 11 new facilities at different locations, but costs are outpacing the institution’s ability to pay.

“Construction costs have really gotten out of control, and we’re having trouble keeping up with them,” Marquez said. The new Aspen Campus building is opening in January, but some of the final touches will be beyond the institution’s budget, he said.

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Posted:Monday, October 30, 2000


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