[GLENWOOD SPRINGS] – At the December meeting of the Colorado Mountain College Board of Trustees at CMC’s Glenwood Center, five recently elected trustees, including new trustees Bob Hartzell (Lake County) and Marianne Virgili (Garfield County), took their oaths of office.

The board unanimously elected the following officers: Patty Theobald (Summit County) will continue as president, Charles Cunniffe (Pitkin County) will serve as secretary and Chris Romer (Eagle County) will serve as treasurer and chair of the audit committee. Peg Portscheller (Garfield County) was named chair of the government relations committee.

Trustees also certified official election results for all board seats and for ballot measure 7A, which added Salida and Poncha Springs into the CMC district. They accepted the 2018-19 financial audit, prepared and presented by the audit firm CliftonLarsonAllen.

The CMC trustees also certified the college’s mill levy at 4.013 mills, a very slight adjustment to compensate a statewide modification to assessment rates. With the new mill levy, homeowners will not pay more in taxes per $100,000 in assessed value; the increase to commercial properties will be less than $5 per year per $1 million in value. Authority for this adjustment was overwhelmingly approved by the voters of the CMC district in 2018 by way of measure 7D.

Measure 7D allows the trustees to adjust the mill levy if statewide assessment rates decline – triggered by the Gallagher Amendment – as long as total revenues to the college remain unchanged. “The college is not looking for increased revenues, but simply seeks to maintain its current level of funding if and when the assessment rate falls,” said Patty Theobald, president of the CMC Board of Trustees.

Because of a complex interplay of constitutional amendments, in recent years increased property values in larger cities have pushed down the assessment rate across the state, which can have a disproportionate impact on rural special districts like fire departments and CMC.

The statewide assessment rate dropped from 7.20 last year to 7.15 in 2019, which reduced revenues to CMC by approximately $200,000. The CMC trustees expressed relief that the change to the statewide assessment was considerably smaller than initially anticipated. Moreover, the trustees expressed interest in continuing to look at ways to diversify revenues to ensure that the burden of financing the college does not fall on the shoulders of local taxpayers alone.

“By maintaining the college’s revenues at stable levels, the college’s overall financial position remains among the strongest in the state of Colorado,” said CMC President Carrie Besnette Hauser. “This allows the college to invest in critical programs such as nursing and police officer training, maintain low tuition for local residents and qualify for low interest rates on debt, which, in turn, reduces overall operating expenses and puts more money into teaching and student learning.”

As Hauser stated after 7D passed last year, “7D is not a blank check or an invitation to spend. It’s the opposite, in fact, as it simply ensures that the college’s future revenues remain level. This stability allows the college to fulfill the education and training needs of dozens of mountain resort communities and to meaningfully plan for the future without constantly worrying that the financial floor will deteriorate out from under us.”

During the meeting trustees also unanimously:

  • Accepted audited financial reports for 2018-19, which presented clean financial operations at the college and found no material weaknesses
  • Approved the appropriation of reserves, which will be used to purchase new instructional equipment and technologies, expand critical academic programs, and improve and maintain college facilities.

Trustees discussed adding an advisory board liaison from Salida, which joined the CMC tax district in November 2019. Though CMC has already lowered tuition rates for the residents of the Salida School District and is in the process of securing a permanent physical presence in Salida and hiring administrative and instructional staff, the board encouraged college management to develop a process to allow a member from the Salida community to observe board meetings, provide advice to the trustees on behalf of the residents of Salida and Poncha Springs, and communicate with the residents of those communities.

The process for selecting this advisory member of the board is forthcoming, but the position is intended to help represent the interests of the community along with new trustee Bob Hartzell, who currently represents Chaffee and Lake counties. No official actions were taken, but a process for selecting the new advisory member will commence in 2020.