Our view: Is 5A a want or a need?
At times, it can be easy to confuse wants and needs.
Many of us wrestle with this distinction every time we compare the actual value of the newest gizmo we’ve just seen in the showroom window with the balance glaring up at us from the bank statement.
Do we really need this thing? Or do we just want it?
Such might be the case with Moffat County Affiliated Junior College Referred Measure 5A, the fate of which will be decided by county voters in the Nov. 7 Coordinated Election.
In a nutshell, the measure proposes upping the property tax — to the benefit of Colorado Northwestern Community College — by $2 million in 2018 and by whatever amounts are generated by a 5 mill increase to the property tax rate in subsequent years.
This is a significant increase, and we won’t try to minimize that fact. It is true the additional 5 mills would amount to only about a $54 annual increase on a $150,000 valuation and a $72 increase on a $200,000 valuation, but even so, it would more than double the property tax rate, from 3 mills to 8 mills. That’s a pretty big jump, no matter how you slice it, and if the extra money were going to fund “wants,” we would almost certainly oppose it.
But would we really be funding mere “wants,” or — looking further down the road — are these “wants” actually needs?
According to the election Blue Book, the extra revenue would be used to support the following.
- Tuition assistance for district residents enrolled at Colorado Northwestern Community College.
- Supplemental programs at CNCC.
- Technology enhancements and equipment.
- Operating costs for district-owned facilities.
- The addition and operation of new facilities.
In general, we are proponents of education, and it could be argued that any investment in an institution of higher learning — particularly in a town the size of Craig — is a smart one.
But, what about the particulars? What about the details? How would this increase benefit the people who’ll be digging into their pockets to fund it?
According to the Blue Book, funds generated by the mill levy increase would be used primarily to construct and manage a 100-unit, on-campus student housing facility and cafeteria. This, the college says, would attract more students to CNCC and, in turn, spur the local economy.
We can’t argue with that reasoning. Prior to bringing Measure 5A to the ballot, CNCC conducted a four-year pilot housing program, and all the units included in that program were quickly filled. So, clearly, many current and potential CNCC students want to live on-campus, and providing them that option would, in our opinion, bolster enrollment and allow the college to grow its certificate and degree programs to a much larger market.
And speaking of programs, funds from the increase would also be used to develop and implement new degree, certificate and training programs, providing highly skilled workers for our local labor pool. Memorial Regional Health is already reaping some of the benefits from CNCC’s bachelor’s of nursing program, and the introduction of new programs and additional bachelor’s degree tracks to CNCC’s curriculum — something that would be greatly enhanced by the passage of 5A — can only add steam to this solid economic driver.
Of course, the lion’s share of these benefits would only be realized years or decades down the road, which renders the “wants versus needs” equation even more vexing.
Here’s how we see it. Craig and Moffat County have been talking about diversification and change for years, and passage of Measure 5A is a positive step toward turning that talk into action.
In our view, educational concerns go hand-in-hand with economic concerns, and if Craig and Moffat County are to grow and thrive into the future, we need — not want, but need — as many economic drivers as possible.
We think the proposed mill levy increase presents a golden opportunity for us to invest in economic diversification and growth, and if that doesn’t qualify as a need, we don’t know what would.