Salida business owner Dave Armstrong supports the proposed annexation of Salida School District R-32-J by Colorado Mountain College.
Armstrong heads up the Friends of Salida Schools committee and the campaign for approval of ballot question 5A, which would decide the annexation of the school district into the CMC taxation district in the November election.
The committee has 12-15 members who provide signs, banners, letters to the editor, ads, advocacy and information about the question.
School board and school employees are required to step away from the issue except on their own time.
Armstrong said, “Growth doesn’t happen without some kind of investment.”
During the recession, he said, the community stepped up in 2010 to build a new high school, and 72 percent were in favor of it. The same thing occurred with Longfellow Elementary School. The community asked the school district to get better and take care of those assets and has gotten its money’s worth from investment in new school buildings, Armstrong said.
Salida School District has done well, he said. Financially it’s in good shape, and the buildings are in good shape.
They’ve been good stewards of the community’s investment, Armstrong said.
Since then the school district has received multiple excellence awards, students have received Daniels and Boettcher scholarships, and Longfellow recently received the Succeeds Award.
The district’s board and teachers stepped up and supported what the community wanted, Armstrong said.
Now growth has happened faster than expected, and the school buildings are nearly at capacity with that new growth. Statistics show only growth in this area.
The decision to annex was not made on a whim, he said.
Faced with growth, Salida School District needed to address it alone or with a partner.
When the CMC option came up, both sides did their due diligence, Armstrong said, adding that CMC is taking a risk on Salida – both sides are taking a leap.
The Salida annexation question also appears on the ballot in other parts of the CMC district as member communities decide whether Salida is a good fit for the district and whether its addition benefits them.
The last time a community was annexed into the CMC taxation district was 1982 when Steamboat Springs joined.
Armstrong said he applauds the Salida school board for getting the district in the position to look at something like this.
Both Salida School District and CMC benefit from what each brings to the table.
This is an “investment one generation makes in another generation,” he said.
The annexation would mean Salidans would agree to be included in the CMC district’s 3.997 mill levy, which would amount to approximately $28.78 per $100,000 assessed for residential property and $115.91 per $100,000 assessed for commercial property by the county.
Armstrong said although CMC funds from the whole taxation district are used to provide for all campuses, for at least the first five years of program development the money from Salida would mostly stay in Salida to build up a reserve while CMC programming is expanded.
Reserve funds would be used to fund a new facility down the line. Additional funding needed would come from the rest of the CMC district.
Programming and students are first and foremost, Armstrong said. At first CMC Salida is expected to need about $255,000 to operate. Five years down the road, with student body growth, the cost is estimated to rise to $600,000-$800,000.
In the case of elderly property owners, who may be on a fixed income, Armstrong said property tax programs are available for those 65 and older and for disabled veterans to help alleviate the property tax burden in Colorado, which might help.
Armstrong laid out benefits he said the annexation would bring to Salida, including:
Benefits to students:
• Continuation of CMC concurrent enrollment at no cost to SHS students.
• Transferable credits for reduced cost ($80 per credit hour versus $170) in general elective coursework. That “takes a big bite out of the traditional costs of a college education,” Armstrong said.
• Opportunities to continue coursework toward certification, associate degree and bachelor’s degree while remaining in the community.
• Opportunities for the 18-30 age group who don’t have to leave the area to attend college.
• CMC programs can cover from preschool to four-year degrees.
• Students benefit by earning more money so they can afford to stay and live here.
Benefits to community
• CMC course offerings are tailored to the needs of the community.
• School district maintains its excellence with a CMC partnership.
“People are here because of our environment, excellent schools, hospital and health care access,” Armstrong said.
• The annexation would create a broader array of educational options, including enrichment opportunities for the community.
• Locals with master’s degrees and doctorates could teach in their areas of expertise.
• In the district, full CMC resources are applied to growing that district.
Benefits to local workforce
• Businesses grow and expand with a better trained workforce. CMC training opportunities mean more retention of workers.
• Local secondary education would provide an opportunity for employees to grow with their business.
• A trained, capable workforce benefits the economy. Businesses can’t grow without a strong, capable workforce.