CNCC dean: Mill levy vote timely

Uncertainty surrounding fun--ding for the state's higher education system makes Colorado Northwestern Community Col--lege's overwhelming mill levy victory in the November general election all the more important, said Gene Bilodeau, dean of CNCC's Craig campus.

On Nov. 7, Moffat County voters approved indefinitely extended the college's three-mill tax levy -- a funding measure that raises about $1.3 million per year -- that was originally approved for 10 years in 1999.

A few days before Election Day, Bilodeau said he read a newspaper article about the potential for some community colleges to face cutbacks, or be shut down, if the Legislature didn't agree to a request from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education to raise higher education funding by $100 million per year over the next several years.

The local mill levy vote then became all the more necessary, he said.

"It was impor--tant from the get-go, but once I read that it was even more important," Bilodeau said. "Now, when you look at CNCC, you look at two communities that are helping pay for that college."

With an approved mill levy, CNCC maintains its position as one of the few community colleges in the state system with a degree of local funding -- voters in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties help fund operations at the Craig and Rangely campuses.

Bilodeau said an approved mill levy "puts us in a much better bargaining place," should the Legislature resist additional funding for higher education, and the Colorado Commission for Higher Education moves forward with cutbacks.

CNCC officials said they were pleasantly surprised not only by the November victory, but by the degree of support local voters pledged toward the community college. Voters approved the mill levy question by a 68 percent to 32 percent margin.

"We live in a very fiscally conservative county," Bilodeau said. "Voters are very watchful at how their money is being spent. ... I was very surprised it went through at that rate. We are very thankful for the degree of support voters have shown."

The approved mill levy also allows CNCC to move forward with plans to expand in both operations and facilities.

Bilodeau said the college is starting to rebound from cutbacks in recent years, prompted by funding reductions, in staff and programs. The school is now developing new, unique programs that target students within a 300-mile radius.

And, with those new programs comes the demand for new facilities. Bilodeau said within two years the school expects to begin "moving Earth," on a new CNCC campus building that officials could use for classes, administrative offices, and recreational student services.

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