On the ballotApr 2, 2017 By Steven R. Peck
For the first time, voters in another county will cast ballots on a CWC proposal
Back in the days when community colleges were still being created in Wyoming, they were formed around community college districts which, basically, adhered to the borders of the counties in which the colleges were seated. The colleges had the right under state law to tax their home districts, and they did. That's how the two-year schools are paid for to a large degree.
Later, when the colleges reached across county lines to start offering services, often even small campuses, to residents of neighboring counties, their taxing authority did not go with them.
That was a great deal for the people in, for example, Thermopolis (Hot Springs County) who wanted to take Central Wyoming College classes but didn't have to be taxed to do it. Yes, the students paid tuition, but the colleges still had to rely soely on their original college districts (Fremont County in our case) for base funding, even as it expanded its offerings outside the district.
Naturally, then, it has long been the not-so-secret desire of Wyoming's community colleges to be able to get consistent tax support from the counties they are expected to serve through extended-learning programs but which are not part of their formal community college districts.
Central Wyoming College has found the next best thing.
CWC has offered distance learning courses and degree programs in Teton County for years, but has relied on rented office and classroom space for it. The Jackson staff members and students make do, but the accommodations aren't all that good.
That could change soon. Teton county has allowed a CWC proposal to go on its special exicse tax ballot. If it passes, a temproary sales tax would be put in place to raise the money for CWC to to buy land for its own building in Jackson.
CWC has asked Fremont County voters for temporary taxation to build numerous facilities in Riverton and Lander, usually with success. Most recently, a very nice CWC Lander Center and the spectacular McFarland Health and Science center on the main campus in Riverton were paid for through Fremont County ballot measures.
But this will be the first time a CWC tax proposal has been on the ballot in another county. That in itself is an accomplishment, testament to the ingenuity of president Brad Tyndall and others who realized that the CWC Jackson Center is a perfectly good proposal for the annual Teton County SPET (that stands for special excise tax).
It will be far from the only proposal on the ballot. There are more than a dozen others, but the college's is among the smaller requests, and there already is a demonstrable and admirable record of service provided to Teton County residents that can be used as the foundation for the public relations campaign to promote the tax.
Each of the items to be on the May 2 ballot must be approved individually, meaning that the CWC proposal could pass as others fail -- and vice versa.
Between now and then, the college is planning a well-organized and broad-based campaign to encourage voter support.
For years, Central Wyoming College's planning for Teton County always involved fund-raising and paying cash for real estate at Teton County prices. It was a daunting task that had proved impossible. Another approach was imperative.
There are no guarantees for the ballot measure's success, but its mere presence on the ballot is a breakthrough which, with additional fundraising being organized through the CWC Foundation, could lead to a fine new facility of great benefit to the college and to Teton County.
This idea is a winner in principle. Now we need the voters of Jackson to make it a winner on the ballot.