Steamboat Springs Colorado Mountain College's Board of Trustees has decided to pursue a lawsuit against the city of Glenwood Springs protesting a reallocation of the city's property taxes.
The reallocation could take between $3.7 million and $10 million away from the college's property-tax revenues over the next 25 years. The city would then use the money to improve its downtown area.
The board's narrow decision, which was made at a meeting last week in Steamboat Springs, does not mean a lawsuit is inevitable.
"The college will remain open to resolving this issue up until a judicial determination," CMC President Cynthia Heelan said.
About 60 percent to 70 percent of the college's revenues come from property taxes, said Joe Marquez, media spokesman for the college.
Although the city's reallocation of tax funds would not make a big impact on the college's annual operating budget of $32 million, Marquez said it could set a precedent that other municipalities would follow and so could further diminish the college's revenues.
He said the lawsuit would also argue that the downtown area in question is not blighted, or rundown enough, to warrant the reallocation. And the lawsuit would hold that the college should protect its revenue from taxes that voters have said should be used for the college to improve technology and to retain employees.
The college would have agreed to the reallocation if the diverted funds were capped, but the city decided not to put a cap in place, officials said.
"While the college wants to support Glenwood's Downtown Development Authority, we were unable to persuade city officials to put a cap on the amount of taxes they would divert from the college," Board of Trustees Chairman John Giardino said. "Without a cap we are in essence asking the people of the other 40-plus municipalities we serve to greatly subsidize the education needs of the population growth that will come to Glenwood Springs, and that is not fair."
The board's decision to pursue the lawsuit was a close one, and all of the board members did not agree legal action was the best idea.
"I think the lawsuit puts us in an adversarial position with the community and that we as a college are there to serve the community and not be adversaries," said Rob Dick, the college's trustee for Routt County. "This argument is just about money and who gets the money. And my hope is that reasonable minds looking out for the best interest of the community can cooperate without legal action."
Dick also said that because the board speaks with one voice, he supported the final decision to consider a lawsuit.