Our View: Vote ‘yes’ on 4B to support CMC | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Vote ‘yes’ on 4B to support CMC

At issue: Colorado Mountain College is seeking to raise property taxes by not more than $50,000 this year and varying amounts in future years to offset declining revenues.

Our view: The many benefits provided by Colorado Mountain College justify allowing CMC officials to collect funds to offset Gallagher losses.

Editorial Board • Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher • Lisa Schlichtman, editor • Tom Ross, reporter • Hannah Hoffman, community representative • Bob Schneider, community representative Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com.

The ballot question known as Referendum 4B was written to allow CMC administrators, going forward, to collect sufficient additional funds to offset annual hits they say their operating budget has been absorbing from the effects of an amendment to the Colorado Constitution known as the Gallagher Amendment. The amount in the first year would be a modest $50,000, but the concern is that the shortfall will continue to climb in coming years.

CMC estimates that it has lost $2.8 million in tax revenue due to the unanticipated impacts of the Gallagher Amendment.

The tax increase would be applied in six counties that are part of the CMC district. Routt County taxpayers (west and south Routt are not in the district) contributed $3.3 million to CMC this year. That compares to about $11.7 million for Pitkin and Eagle counties. Summit County contributed $6.9 million. CMC’s annual operating budget is $66 million.

Because of Gallagher, non-residential taxpayers are due to shoulder the extra burden. State Rep. Millie Hamner representing Summit County, says residential property taxpayers won’t see their taxes go up, as a result.

There is no getting around the reality that it’s challenging for voters to quickly grasp the potential harm that Gallagher is posing to taxing entities across Colorado.

Gallagher was approved in 1982 to ensure that residential property taxpayers across the state would never shoulder more than 45 percent of the overall tax burden, and non-residential property taxpayers would never assume less than 55 percent of the tax burden. That’s accomplished by lowering the assessment rate for residential property owners – keeping a lid on their property taxes. Between 1985 and 2017, the rate dropped from 21 percent to about 7.2 percent.

That’s good news for individual homeowners, who have seen Gallagher keep their taxes in check. But 32 years ago, it wasn’t well understood how badly it would skew tax collections.

CMC officials explain that the rampant growth on Colorado’s Front Range has undermined its tax base, which depends heavily on residential property. As the residential ratio goes down, it gnaws away at the college system’s revenue stream.

If the residential rate drops to the projected 6.2 percent in coming years, CMC estimates it would have between $4 million and $6 million less to operate the college system. That would surely translate into fewer programs and/or tuition cuts at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs.

Colorado Mountain College is many things to many people in Steamboat and the surrounding area with its mix of basic college courses offered in pursuit of a two-year associates degree, to a handful of four-year degrees and a wide range of continuing education classes that range from yoga to computer science, and from fine arts to business skills.

For students seeking degrees, many of them young adults from our community, the current cost per credit hour of $65 ($99 for higher-level classes), are among the most economical in the region. And the opportunity for two-year degree candidates to economize by spending their first two years of college living at home is significant.

And the benefits of CMC go further, with their degrees in culinary arts and ski industry management creating job candidates for numerous local businesses.

It’s a community institution that benefits much of the central and northern Colorado Rockies and it’s well worth protecting.

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