College goes on the offensive (9-15-06)

CNCC lobbies for $1.3 million extension; voters to decide whether to continue mill levy

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Funding cutbacks in recent years have forced policy-makers at Colorado Northwestern Community College to adopt a defensive posture in "trying to protect what we have," administrators said.

And CNCC President John Boyd is tired of it.

"I don't like chewing on the same dirt twice," Boyd said. "I don't like defense, I want to be on offense. ... Sitting back and protecting ourselves doesn't work -- never has, never will. ... We're on the offensive now."

Beginning now, Boyd said Thursday morning, the college is taking an aggressive stance in lobbying the community to approve a 3-mill tax extension that accounts for about one-third of the Craig campus's $3.2 million budget.

Voters approved the mill levy in 1999. It sunsets after 10 years and will expire in 2009. Voters will decide on extending the tax package indefinitely during the November general election.

"Giving people a future is what we're all about," Boyd said. "That and being an active player in the community. ... We need your help in wanting to move forward with this."

Boyd's words, which doubled as a plea to the community and a rallying cry for CNCC, came before local residents Thursday during a mill-levy campaign kickoff meeting at the Boys and Girls Club of Craig.

According to CNCC officials, the owner of a $150,000 home pays $35.82 per year to the college, under a 3-mill levy.

The mill levy funnels $1,277,370 into CNCC's budget for the Craig campus.

Although CNCC is aggressively pursuing its mill-levy extension, college officials stop short of saying that a failed tax measure would cause the closure of the Craig campus.

"I get that question all the time, and the answer to that is ... if we don't get this, the campus will not close," said Gene Bilodeau, dean of the Craig campus. Still, he said, a failed November tax measure would have drastic negative impacts on the future of the school.

Bilodeau, for one, doesn't want to see the school's progress hindered, which is what a loss of the 3-mill levy would cause, he said.

"This is about as excited as I've been since I came here," said Bilodeau, who began work at CNCC in 1994. "I see a lot of things we want to do coming to fruition."

Those projects, Boyd said, include a series of new programs that will help compliment the local economy.

"The key words (in CNCC) are community college," he said. "We are part of the community. What we look like depends largely on what the community wants us to look like."

Boyd, who joined the college in March, said CNCC is a cog in the wheel of local economic development. He said the college helps improve the quality of life for residents who want to better themselves.

A better education means a better-paying job, he said. In turn, that educated resident buys a better home. Follow the trickle-down effect long enough and you'll get an educated resident with a nice home paying more property taxes, the CNCC president said.

A good college, he added, also helps the area attract better businesses.

"We represent an investment in the future," Boyd said. "The bottom line is, with an education, you have a greater earning potential."

In coming semesters, CNCC plans to unveil new programs that include courses for industrial electricians, horse training management and massage therapy.

According to CNCC officials, 35 percent of the money raised by the mill levy goes toward scholarships for local students, 30 percent for future campus expansion and program development, 19 percent for new facilities and 13 percent for supplemental funding for technology and current and new programs.

An additional 1 percent pays for operating expenses for locally owned facilities.

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

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