Wednesday, January 22, 2003
Steamboat Springs While colleges and universities around the state fear the distinct possibility of crippling budget cuts, Colorado Mountain College officials are breathing easy -- or at least easier.
Thanks in large part to western Colorado voters and property owners, CMC funding will remain fairly stable even if the state's Joint Budget Committee decides slashing higher-education funding is the best way to help trim $465 million from the state's budget.
Unlike most state universities, colleges and community colleges, CMC receives the majority of its funding from property taxes, not state coffers. Sixty-five percent of CMC's funding is generated from a 3.997-mill levy on property taxes in five Colorado counties, Pitkin, Eagle, Summit, Garfield and Lake counties, CMC public information officer Joe Marquez said.
Although Routt County is not one of those five counties, property owners within the boundaries of the Steamboat Springs School District pay a portion of their property tax to support CMC, Marquez said.
"We'd be in a world of hurt if we didn't have property-tax funding," Marquez said. "There are only two property-tax funded community colleges in the state. The rest of the community colleges are part of the state system."
Of CMC's remaining funding sources, 20 percent is generated from tuition and 15 percent comes from the state, Marquez said.
That means CMC is not entirely immune to state budget cuts. Existing cuts to higher education funding have resulted in a 1.7-percent reduction to CMC's budget, Marquez said.
"We are definitely being affected a lot less than other institutions in the state," he said. "But things aren't gravy at CMC. It's definitely not a fat time. At least we're not laying off people or killing academic programs."
Losing all 15 percent of state funding could result in reductions, Marquez warned.
In 1966, voters in Pitkin, Eagle, Summit, Garfield and Lake counties came together and decided they wanted higher education closer to home, Marquez said. Voters passed the mill levy that funds the CMC system, and that mill levy will continue to fund 65 percent of CMC's budget unless voters propose a ballot initiative dissolving the funding, Marquez said.
Steamboat's Alpine Campus became part of the CMC system in 1981.
It's a worthwhile investment for local taxpayers, Marquez said.
CMC gives back to area communities by offering affordable continuing education courses and training the work force that helps support the resort lifestyle, he said: "We feel extremely fortunate that the residents of western Colorado see us as a good investment and a good amenity for their towns."