The State Board of Education approved Thursday a ballot measure to include Bingham County in the College of Eastern Idaho’s taxing district.
Bingham County residents will vote Nov. 7 on whether to join the district. A simple majority approval is required.
Bingham County Republican Central Committee members collected 123 signatures, 23 more than required, to bring a resolution to join the taxing district to ballot.
The College of Eastern Idaho board of trustees and State Board then both unanimously approved the measure.
Bingham County Republican Central Committee Chairman Dan Cravens, a former state economist, was pleased by the state’s decision.
“The State Board looked at it and saw the same need the Republican Central Committee and a lot of residents and businesses see as well,” he said. “It could have a very important economic development impact in Bingham. Right now a lot of our employers are bottlenecked because they can’t find the right talent.”
Currently, the college’s taxing district is slated to encompass Bonneville County.
Tuition for students inside the district will be $129 per credit hour, while tuition outside the district will be $179 per credit hour. Students can request assistance from their counties to cover the extra cost, however, which means that money comes in large part from county coffers.
“One way or another there is going to be a tax consequence. It’s just a question how we want to address it, and whether we want to fully participate in all the benefits that come from being inside the district,” Cravens said.
The average Bingham County resident is projected to contribute $11 or $12 per year to the district, while the average Bonneville County resident is expected to pay $13.37 per year. The CEI board is expected to set a tax mill rate next year; money won’t be collected until 2019.
If Bingham County votes to join the district, CEI administrators likely would consider offering classes within the county, CEI Interim President Rick Aman said.
“We’d have to look at a potential space to do that, but I think that would be an important element of something we’d want to do on behalf of the county,” Aman said.
College administrators also would focus on customized workforce development specific to Bingham County employers, and dual-enrollment courses for Bingham County high school students.
“It’s not that we wouldn’t work on any of those things anyway, but when we’ve got a county who’s willing to tax itself and offer a consistent revenue stream, we’re going to pay more attention,” Aman said.
Dual-enrollment courses would be helpful for students looking to jumpstart their post-secondary educations while saving money, Cravens said. Older, non-traditional students already in the workforce also could pursue a degree without the time commitment necessary to attend school full-time.
“We have a lot of folks who could benefit from a community college who can’t attend a four-year university. And it will make the county more attractive to employers coming into the county,” Cravens said. “The college can do that very efficiently because it’s locally governed.”
Reporter Kevin Trevellyan can be reached at 208-542-6762.