Our View: Extending education

Colorado Northwestern Community College officials are planning ahead.

The Craig campus' 3-mill levy sunsets in three years. But it is not going to wait to find out whether voters will approve an extension. Officials want to know now whether they'll have funding in a few years.

That's a smart move, especially considering that Moffat County voters have a record of turning down tax questions.

But CNCC's proposal simply maintains the same funding it receives now. It will extend the levy indefinitely.

Property owners -- residential and agriculture -- currently pay $23.88 per year for each $100,000 assessed value. Business owners dole out $87 per year for each $100,000 assessed value.

If the mill levy passes, the cost for higher education would remain the same for an indefinite period of time.

Is that really so bad?

Take a small downtown business as an example. The Moffat County Assessor's Office reports that an average business in the 500 block of Yampa Avenue is valued at about $100,000.

So business owners pay less than $90 a year for educated employees, a larger population of shoppers and a more stable economy.

And the college has big plans to expand.

Gene Bilodeau, dean of the Craig campus, said the college plans to continue growing its program offerings. This year, power plant technology was introduced, thanks to tax dollars, Bilodeau said. He wants to bring an industrial electrician program to the school soon.

But he said state funding is not enough to get these programs off the ground. Colorado is one of the least-funded states for education.

So local tax money is critical to the college's success, and we encourage residents to vote "yes" on CNCC's request Nov. 7.

If the extension is denied, school officials have said the school will not close. But the school will have a much different look. Only programs that pay for themselves will be kept. Students may lose tuition waivers, and programs open to community members may no longer be offered.

If it does pass, Craig is opening itself up to unlimited possibilities for the college's growth and continued academic success.

You can't put a price on an educated community and a college that stabilizes our economy.

So let's not let a few dollars stand in our way.

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