GILLETTE, Wyo. – The Campbell County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a memorandum of understanding allowing Wyoming’s newest community college district to access up to $10 million in county reserves.
The MOU was approved in a majority vote on Dec. 20 with only Commissioner Colleen Faber voting against it. With its passage, the document creates a fund from which the Gillette Community College District can withdraw up to $10 million to keep itself afloat until September 2023.
Commissioner Don Hamm, prior to the vote, said that while he still doesn’t fully understand the situation and thinks the $10 million outlined in the MOU is too much, he believes it to be the cheapest option available.
“I think it should be less, but if we let the college fall on its head, it’s going to tax the taxpayers a hell of a lot more than $10 million,” Hamm said. “So, in my opinion, I support this memorandum for the simple reason- I think it’s the cheapest way to go. Being an (agricultural) person, I tend to be cheap.”
The funds were deemed necessary in light of a recently come-to-light funding crisis for GCCD fueled by a statutory change to ad valorem tax collections approved by the Wyoming Legislature.
According to prior discussions, the college had expected a payout from ad valorem tax collections and had passed a budget with that anticipation; however, the changes made it so ad valorem taxes are collected on a monthly basis as opposed to the long-standing annual collection.
With the change, a large lump sum payment was not provided as expected to the college district, which was also not made aware of loan opportunities for entities facing funding shortfalls as a direct result of the statutory change, according to GCCD Board Chairman Robert Palmer, who said during a previous commission meeting that the situation was a perfect storm.
The money paid out to the GCCD by the county will function as a loan, with the county looking to recoup the funds when ad valorem tax payments are sent out by the state for allocation.