Colorado Mountain College seeking sustained funding with resurrected ballot measure
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Colorado Mountain College will go back to voters this fall with a ballot question seeking permission to make mill levy adjustments to account for revenue reductions caused by the state’s Gallagher Amendment.
CMC Trustees, at their Wednesday, Aug. 29, meeting in Leadville, passed a resolution to put the ballot issue before voters in the six-county special college district on Tuesday, Nov. 6. The measure comes just one year after voters rejected a similar measure in the November 2017 election by a 53 percent margin.
If passed, then the ballot issue would authorize the trustees to adjust the CMC mill levy, if needed, in given years in response to statewide revenue reductions caused by the Gallagher Amendment to the state constitution.
Any such move would be meant to maintain existing college services, rather than for expansion purposes, trustees clarified in their decision to go back to voters. Any mill levy increase would be limited in amount to any such reductions.
As a result of recent growth on the Front Range, the college, as well as other rural fire and special taxing districts that rely on property taxes, has experienced significant reductions in revenues.
Preparing for another drop
Passed by state voters in 1982, the Gallagher Amendment set the state property tax ratio at 55 percent for commercial property and 45 percent for residential. To maintain that ratio, the commercial assessment rate was set at a fixed 29 percent, and the residential rate is flexible, adjusting downward as property valuations increase.
Because of the rapid Front Range growth, and resulting inflation in residential valuations there, the statewide residential assessment rate went from 7.96 percent to 7.2 percent in 2017 and is expected to drop again next year.
In 2017, CMC’s revenue was reduced by $2.8 million, compared to what had been projected before the Gallagher effect was triggered, college officials explained following the Wednesday vote by trustees.
“With this ballot measure, the college simply seeks to protect and preserve its current level of funding in order to continue providing affordable education,” CMC Board President Patty Theobald said in a prepared statement issued following the vote.
This includes programs in areas such as firefighter, law enforcement and first responder training, nursing and health care training and teacher training, she added.
Last year, CMC made adjustments to the drop in anticipated funding by making changes to new employee benefits, implementing operating reductions and increasing tuition.
If the assessment rate drops again in 2019 — which it will do absent any legislative or statewide remedies, college administrators advised the board — then CMC expects to experience an additional reduction of $3.8 million.
That’s an amount equal to the entire operating budget of one of the college’s campuses, according to college officials.
CMC is a property tax-supported special district serving Garfield, Eagle, Pitkin, Lake, Routt and Summit counties, with its headquarters based in Glenwood Springs. CMC has residential campuses at Spring Valley outside Glenwood Springs, Leadville and Steamboat Springs. Additional academic campuses are located in Rifle, Glenwood, Aspen and Edwards, with facilities in other outlying areas.