Please enter your login information to view this article.
Username and Password Help
By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — It’s not the first time Town of Colfax resident Terry Nichols has asked the Dunn County Board to put forward a referendum question on technical college funding.
Nichols addressed the Dunn County Board about a non-binding referendum during the public comments portion of the county board’s January 15 meeting.
The Chippewa Valley Technical College District Board of Directors was scheduled to take a vote on whether to move forward with a $48.8 million referendum at the CVTC board’s January 16 meeting, Nichols said.
For the past 16 years, Nichols has been on a mission to convince the state to move funding for technical colleges from the local level to the state level.
Unlike elected county boards, school boards, village boards, town boards and city councils, technical college boards are appointed, Nichols said.
If an elected board spends money in a way that residents do not approve, the residents can vote out one set of board members and elect a different board, he said.
When it comes to appointed technical college district boards, residents do not have any choice in the matter, Nichols said.
In addition to the CVTC $48.8 million referendum, residents in the Elk Mound school district also are facing a $15 million referendum, and if the Elk Mound referendum is approved in the April election, the people in Elk Mound will be getting a “double whammy,” he said.
CVTC currently is $28 million in debt, Nichols said.
“It is not a democracy” when an appointed board can borrow so much money, he said.
Funding for CVTC and other technical colleges in the state is part of the local property tax.
Property tax bills in this area reflect taxes levied for the local school district, the municipality, the county and CVTC.
All higher education funding belongs at the state level, like the University of Wisconsin System is funded at the state level, Nichols said.
The CVTC board authorized a survey of residents in the 11-county district in September to find out what their “tax tolerance” would be for construction projects.
The survey determined residents would be likely to fund up to $55 million in construction projects.
According to a news release from CVTC dated January 16, the CVTC District Board approved a resolution on January 16 calling for an April 7 referendum to borrow $48.8 million to fund projects identified in the facilities plans.
The proposal includes a new Transportation Education Center for $28 million; an addition and remodeling of at the Emergency Services Education Center for $9.2 million; the addition of an Automated Fabrication Lab at the Manufacturing Education Center for $3 million; and purchase of land adjacent to the River Falls campus for $2.5 million.
The proposal also includes development of mobile labs; purchasing new technology; remodeling at the Menomonie and Chippewa campuses; a storage facility; and additional labs.
If the referendum were to be approved by voters, the tax impact over the 11-county technical college district would result in a property tax increase of $13 per year per $100,000 of equalized property value, according to the news release.
Much of the construction would be expected to take place in 2021-2022.