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SPRING VALLEY/GLENWOOD SPRINGS – At the combined annual planning retreat, work session and August meeting of the Colorado Mountain College Board of Trustees Aug. 28, the trustees voted unanimously to place on the November ballot an initiative to ask voters to annex into the CMC taxing district the area served by the Salida School District.

The Salida School District board voted earlier this month to ask their own voters whether they should join the CMC district. In order for the annexation to take place, following state law voters both in the district being annexed and those throughout the college district must vote in favor of the annexation.

On Wednesday the CMC trustees unanimously voted in favor of placing the following language on the November 2019 ballot:

“Without increasing taxes to the current residents of the Colorado Mountain College District, shall the Colorado Mountain College District be enlarged to include property within the boundaries of Salida School District Number R32J?”

CMC trustees have said they support the annexation of the Salida School District because, following the creation of a feasibility study, they believe:

  • The Salida School District is a viable community for annexation into the CMC tax district.
  • The area has educational needs similar to much of the CMC district. For instance, the Salida School District tax boundary includes Monarch Mountain, a small but acclaimed ski destination, and numerous outdoor outfitters that satisfy the needs of thousands of anglers and boaters who frequent the Arkansas River. It is a business and government center for the Arkansas River Valley and has been designated as a Certified Creative District by Colorado Creative Industries, a division of the state’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade. (Four of the seven CCDs in the state are within CMC’s total nine-county service area: Breckenridge, Steamboat, Grand Lake, and Carbondale.)
  • Adults living within the school district have more education than the state average, which mirrors other CMC communities.
  • The community is growing faster than the rest of the state as a whole.
  • The birth rate in Salida is growing faster than the death rate, suggesting that the community is becoming younger and attracting younger professionals with children.
  • The Hispanic immigrant population in Salida and Poncha Springs is growing steadily and significantly. The expected growth in this population indicates strong potential enrollment across programs.
  • The only age group in Salida with negative growth is that for 18- to 20-year-olds, suggesting that high school graduates generally leave the community for college outside of the region due to the absence of postsecondary opportunities in the community.
  • Unlike most other mountain towns, Salida has land to grow and thus should expect to experience sustained growth in the coming decades.

Currently the Salida School District is within the college’s three-county service area, but not its six-county taxing district. Residents living within the service area pay tuition of $170 per credit hour, while those living within the taxing district pay $80 per credit hour. The lower tuition rate is because taxpayers within the CMC district pay a 3.997 mill levy that supports the college, a mill levy that has not changed in several decades. If the Salida School District were to join the CMC district, those taxpayers would pay that same mill levy. However, adding the Salida School District to the CMC district would have no impact on current taxpayers within the CMC district.

The last school district to be successfully annexed into the CMC district was the Steamboat Springs School District in 1982.

Also this fall, voters throughout the current six-county CMC district will be able to vote to fill five of the college’s seven trustee seats.

Other actions, discussion

The board also voted unanimously to approve an intergovernmental memorandum of understanding with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Division of Colorado National Guard (CONG), so that CONG can begin preparation for funding a high-altitude training facility on the college’s Leadville campus.

Trustees also voted unanimously to approve that management make final arrangements regarding a requested drainage easement on the property of the Chaffee County Academic Center in Buena Vista.

Trustees heard and discussed a summary of community input received during the June and July open houses at the college’s Aspen campus. Board members expressed their commitment to ongoing conversations with members of the community and local neighbors as more definitive plans for the campus are developed. At the board meeting public comments were also received on the Aspen campus expansion, covering many of the same themes residents had previously expressed at earlier community meetings, including the density and scale of buildings; campus safety; student amenities and recreational space; land use and approval process; transportation, traffic and mobility; amenities that would be provided to the community; and demographics/profile of future students. No related action items were on the agenda so no actions were taken.

On the consent agenda of the meeting, trustees approved:

  • reappointments of Sean Nesbitt and Julie Hanson as CMC’s representatives to the five-member condominium association at Morgridge Commons
  • a contract with Canter for furniture for the J. Robert Young Alpine Ascent Center, Outdoor Leadership Center & Field House, and Student Center at Spring Valley
  • a contract with Backbone Group for digital marketing
  • resolutions in support of two grants:
    • one for the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI), which would provide $150,000 in scholarship support for CMC students and would require a comparable match from the college
    • another for $25,000 in planning support from the Garfield County Mineral Lease District, funding activities related to the expansion of solar energy and hiking/biking trails at the Spring Valley and Rifle campuses.