CMC plans to ask voters to bring Salida into the fold

A Colorado Mountain College avalanche safety training course in Salida, where the college is looking to officially annex.
CMC website photo

Colorado Mountain College is working on something that hasn’t happened in 37 years: Adding a new school district to the college’s taxing authority.

Since last August, CMC and the town of Salida have been working on a feasibility study and laying the groundwork to add the Salida school district to the college’s district.

The CMC board and the Salida Board of Education both voted to accept the feasibility study last week.

The next step of the process will be proposing a mill levy to Salida voters and asking voters in CMC districts — including Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Rifle, Aspen, Vail, Eagle, Breckenridge, Leadville and Steamboat Springs — to approve adding Salida to the tax district.

Steamboat Springs School District Re-2 was the last district to be annexed into CMC, which was completed in 1982

If both votes go through, Salida CMC programming would be supported from the same pool of property tax revenue that funds the other campuses in the district.

“Fiscally, it seems that the tax revenue that would be generated would support the academic programs that the community is interested in offering, the types of staffing and student support we would need,” Rachel Pokrandt, vice president and campus dean for Leadville and Chaffee County, said in an interview.

“Part of our feasibility was to try and determine whether there would be any kind of fiscal drain, or any other positive and negative effects of adding a new location into the college,” said Matt Gianneschi, chief operating officer for CMC.

It’s impossible to predict what will happen in 10 to 20 years, Gianneschi said, but Salida is growing as more people move from the Front Range, and property tax revenues are expected to increase. If Salida’s growth stalls, it could result in needing additional revenues, the feasibility study notes.

“Financially, they have sufficient capacity to begin the development of a campus,” Gianneschi said.

The feasibility study estimates that the Salida campus would have an operating budget of about $1.2 million from state funding, the property tax, and tuition. And, if enrollment grows as projected, the college would have additional revenues of about $500,000 for capital projects.

For Salida, joining the district means a major increase in funding for CMC’s small presence in Chaffee County (Salida and Buena Vista both have relatively small CMC presence, supported exclusively by state funding and tuition, not from CMC’s mill levies).

Most of the initial education programs at a Salida CMC would be in education, health care and hospitality, according to the feasibility study, which are already part of the college’s academic offerings elsewhere and could be rolled out easily.

There is also the potential that a future Salida campus might pioneer two new academic programs for CMC —a fabrication engineering program and a brewing/distilling science certification. Those programs would take longer to develop, but would be a unique feature for a Salida campus.

“If there is a positive vote, we would jump in and start planning those programs,” Pokrandt said.

Initially, Gianneschi said Salida’s campus would be similar in size to Carbondale’s campus, but it has the potential to become much larger.

The Salida board of education voted unanimously to move forward with the feasibility study March 21, the Salida Mountain Mail reported.

The whole community, from the local politicians to business leaders, has been “nearly unanimous” and “enthusiastic,” Gianneschi said.

“I would commend the vision of the school board and the superintendent in Salida who are really looking to chart a course for the future,” Pokrandt said.

Moving forward with a CMC campus would “keep the community relevant and vibrant into the future,” she said.

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