Opinion: Let’s invite Salida to join the CMC district
More than 50 years ago, the Colorado Mountain College tax district was created and, for the first time, college became possible for the residents of Colorado’s remote high mountain towns. Nearly two decades later, in 1982, the residents of Steamboat Springs requested an opportunity to join the CMC district. This measure passed, and now the town famous for Champagne Powder is home to a thriving CMC campus.
Today, some 36 years following the vote to invite Steamboat into CMC, the residents of Salida are now requesting an opportunity to do the same.
As CMC’s elected trustees, we ask you to please vote yes on 7A in support of the annexation of Salida into the CMC district.
The ballot language of question 7A is quite simple:
“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?”
Adding Salida into CMC’s tax district would not raise the taxes of any existing taxpayer. In fact, the revenue generated by the addition of Salida would be more than sufficient to support the courses and programs needed in that community, at least for the foreseeable future.
Importantly, our decision to support Salida’s annexation petition was not hasty. CMC has offered a limited number of courses and programs to the residents of Chaffee County for decades. However, for the past several years, Salida has experienced transformational growth in its population, its industries and its plans for its future.
More than a year ago, nearly the entirety of the leadership in Salida — including the superintendent of schools, the mayor, members of the school board, county commissioners and others — traveled to numerous CMC sites and to a meeting of our board. Their request was simple: support their annexation into CMC, thereby bringing postsecondary education to the residents of their community.
A formal feasibility study on Salida’s fit with CMC was completed in 2019. Based on the findings of that report, we trustees unanimously supported the goal of annexing Salida into the CMC tax district. We believe Salida is viable for annexation because:
- The area has educational needs similar to much of the CMC district.
- Adults living within the school district have more education than the state average, which mirrors other CMC communities.
- The community is growing at a rate more than double the statewide average.
- 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 with negative growth is that for 18- to 20-year-olds, suggesting that high school graduates generally leave the community due to the absence of college opportunities locally.
- Unlike most other mountain towns, Salida has land to grow and thus should expect to experience sustained growth in the coming decades.
As trustees, we are exceedingly proud of CMC, an exceptional institution that meets the needs of our mountain communities in ways that few could fathom when the district was founded more than half a century ago. Today, CMC is a vital institution that provides free courses to our high school students; trains our nurses, police officers and teachers; and reaches the spectrum of residents in our communities, from English-language learners to those taking courses for the joy of learning.
And in spite of our great admiration of the college and its services, we know that other mountain towns could also benefit from CMC. This is why we urge the residents of our communities to join us in voting yes on 7A, in support of the annexation of Salida into the CMC district.
Charles Cunniffe, District 1, Pitkin County
Kathy Goudy, District 2, East Garfield County
Peg Portscheller, District 3, West Garfield County
Patricia Theobald, District 4, Summit County
Bob Kuusinen, District 5, Routt County
Pat Chlouber, District 6, Lake County
Chris Romer, District 7, Eagle County
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