‘Father of CMC’: Ballot Measure 4B will help maintain CMC for another 50 years (column)

David Delaplane
Valley Voices
David Delaplane
Special to the Daily |

Fifty-two years ago, the members of the Education Committee of the Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce, composed of business and community leaders and I, crisscrossed thousands of miles, in all weather conditions on U.S. Highway 6, U.S. Highway 24, single-lane roads, Loveland Pass, Independence Pass and Fremont Pass in order to advocate for a mill levy to build a college in the mountains.

We all understood that the state would not likely ever choose to locate college campuses in our mountain communities. They were simply too small and too remote to justify making a statewide investment. So, we decided to chart our own destiny and set out to create an institution of our own.

It worked.

On Nov. 5, 1965, the communities in Garfield, Lake, Eagle, Summit and Pitkin counties passed a mill levy to build a local district college by a margin of 2 to 1 (Steamboat Springs in Routt County joined the CMC district later, in 1982). This landslide victory established Colorado Mountain College, an institution that continues to defy conventions and distinguish and advantage its communities.

Today, CMC’s impact is hard to comprehend. The college’s annual budget of $66 million, $45 million of which is from local property taxes, creates 1,200 jobs in our communities and supplies thousands of workers to local employers.

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This financial model allows the college to deliver services in all communities across the college’s service area, maintain the lowest tuition in the state of Colorado, offer free college courses to nearly 1,200 high school students and train elementary school teachers, solar installers, oil and gas technicians and welders, to name a few.

Though we are celebrating the college’s 50th anniversary this year and its innumerable accomplishments, I fear that the Gallagher Amendment threatens the college’s future. This difficult to understand provision in the state’s constitution has the potential to unravel locally funded services in our small western slope communities.

Since 1982, the Gallagher Amendment has reduced local property tax revenue potential by 75 percent. While this is great for the individual, the result can be detrimental to local services such as CMC. Voting “yes” to 4B means, as an individual, you are giving up the equivalent of one cup of coffee ($3) for every $100,000 of assessed property value in your home. Left unchecked, Gallagher’s impact can only go one direction: toward zero.

I strongly support the Colorado Mountain College Board of Trustees’ pursuit of a ballot question this fall. The college’s mill levy of 3.997 has remained the same for decades. The Trustees’ intent is not to raise new money for CMC but to protect the college from future damage caused by population growth in the Front Range, which is driving the Gallagher rates down. Over the past 50 years, CMC has become an essential part of the culture and economies of our towns. The question on the ballot this November would provide the Trustees with an opportunity to protect CMC today and for future generations of teachers, nurses, firefighters and police officers.

The Gallagher Amendment has the potential to scrap generations of creativity, imagination and investment in our towns. So, when you consider Ballot Measure 4B this November, I ask you to imagine your communities without CMC. Please help us maintain CMC for another 50 years by voting “yes” on Ballot Measure 4B. More information is available at

David Delaplane is known as the “father of CMC.” He helped form Colorado Mountain College more than 50 years ago while serving as the director of the Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce. The numbers referenced herein are from the 2017-2018 CMC Budget Book.

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