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December 29, 2009
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CMC courses being assessed amid budget concerns

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - Some smaller Colorado Mountain College courses could be phased out over the next couple of years if efforts to boost enrollment aren't successful.

Especially if college revenues decrease as expected over the next few years, all spending will be closely scrutinized, CMC President Dr. Stan Jensen said in a recent interview.

"We are constantly assessing programs to determine which are the most efficient and effective in serving our students," he said. "We try to use every nickel wisely, and in a way to serve students in the best way possible."

With enrollment up 18 percent at the Roaring Fork Campus and 10 percent collegewide, many CMC programs are either growing and need to be capped, or are holding steady, Jensen said.

Some of those, such as the nursing program, teacher education, business, environmental studies and hospitality training, could become part of CMC's proposed new baccalaureate programs, for which it is seeking state legislative approval in 2010.

However, some programs are experiencing decreasing enrollment and either need to have class schedules adjusted to accommodate more students, or be phased out, Jensen said.

"If a program appears to be no longer in demand, we will put it on a two-year track to close it down," he said.

Five such course offerings - engineering, occupational safety, trade apprenticeship, electrical and industrial maintenance - were listed among possible immediate cuts, had the CMC board of trustees not decided earlier this month to maintain the multicounty college district's mill levy at the same rate as it has been for the past 20 years.

Those and others will continue to be evaluated, Jensen said, especially as the special college district braces for anticipated decreases in two of its three main sources of funding over the next several years.

Property tax revenue from the oil and gas industry is expected to drop 50 percent by June 30, 2010.

And, although CMC will see a property tax windfall of about $14.4 million next year due to this year's higher assessed valuations (based on 2008 values), property tax in general is expected to fall in subsequent years as valuations catch up with current selling prices.

Meanwhile, state funding for CMC is also likely to be reduced by more than half next year as a result of state budget cuts.

Although CMC is not part of the state community college system, it receives about $6.7 million annually from the Colorado Department of Higher Education now.

"It's a pretty safe bet that we'll be down to $3 million or less over the next few years," Jensen said.

"Over the next few years, we are looking at a perfect storm of decreasing property taxes, decreasing funds from the state and increasing enrollments as people turn to us for affordable education and retraining," he added.

In assessing its long-range options, the CMC board looked at best-case, worst-case and medium-case scenarios of revenue projections for the current and next three fiscal years.

"The college has reserves that can help to backfill those losses in revenue, though approximately half the amount of our operating budget has to be set aside as a reserve for cash flow purposes," said Jensen.

Approximately 79 percent of CMC's $77.9 million budget comes from property taxes levied throughout the college's six-county district.

The medium-case scenario anticipates a $200,000 decrease for 2010-11 compared to the original 2009-10 budget; an $8.4 million decrease for 2011-12; and a $7.8 million decrease for 2012-13.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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The Post Independent Updated Dec 30, 2009 11:08AM Published Dec 29, 2009 01:56AM Copyright 2009 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.