Chippewa Valley Technical College will seek voter approval April 7 for a $48.8 million referendum to expand facilities and programs to meet workforce needs.
The proposed plan would create a new transportation center and emergency service center and update the technical components in the manufacturing education center. The rest of the allocated funds would be used for additional renovations and expansions to Chippewa Valley campuses in its 11-county district.
Bruce Barker, president of Chippewa Valley Technical College, said the decision to propose the second referendum in CVTC’s history came through both internal and external conversations with board members and the community about what CVTC needs to better serve the Chippewa Valley.
“It has become apparent that we need to expand in order to meet the needs of this community,” Barker said. “During our annual strategic planning process, we found the main areas we needed to address and we think we have a compelling case for this project. We’ve reached out to the community to see if they agree with us, and largely that is the case. If we are going to continue to grow and better serve the community, we need this project to be approved.”
Barker said there are three main reasons for proposing the referendum:
- Demand for space exceeds their current capacity. Many of the spaces at CVTC are shared between multiple programs and scheduling has become increasingly stressful. The additional space and resources would greatly help with this, he said, and it also opens the possibility of increasing enrollment at the school. Enrollment has grown the past four years.
- Area employers depend on CVTC. There is a historic workforce shortage in the United States currently and many of the skilled labor and service industries rely on CVTC graduates to fill vacant positions. He said the community also needs the institution because the existing workforce will require constant training as technology changes and the needs of their positions change along with it. “We’ve talked a lot about new technology emerging,” Barker said. “Every time there is another technology advancement, it’s our responsibility to incorporate it into our programs, but also to retrain existing workers who’ve missed out on it. Areas like manufacturing and transportation require increased resources as time goes on and currently we don’t have the space or resources to keep up with these changing areas. That’s a big reason for the referendum, because we want our students to be as viable in the modern workspace as possible.”
- CVTC officials believe the referendum will help keep workers in the region post-graduation. Barker said a community with greater educational resources will be much more attractive to potential workers and graduates when they are looking to enter the workforce.
To help meet the worker shortage, Barker said the ability to train more people at a more efficient rate in the emergency service industry would benefit both the Chippewa Valley and more rural areas where finding volunteers is growing increasingly difficult.
“There is a large shortage of emergency volunteers around the state and especially in rural areas,” Barker said. “Through adding the resources allotted to us in this referendum, we’d be able to train more volunteers and workers in the emergency service field to better meet that need in our community.”
The $48.8 million budget for the proposed three-year referendum construction project would be funded primarily through property taxes. The estimated cost per $100,000 of property value is a tax increase of $13 a year. The payment plan would extend through the next 21 years with an interest rate of 3.75-4 percent.
During planning for the project, Barker and administration at CVTC decided they needed to keep the budget for the referendum under $55 million.
One aspect of the referendum that hit the cutting room floor amid lack of support from the community was an $18 million housing project. The goal with the idea was limit the amount of commuting the school’s students had to engage in, but ultimately the school’s reputation led to the removal of this aspect of the referendum.
“The general perception is that we’ve always been a commuter college,” Barker said. “Many people asked us why we needed to change that, as it’s worked up until this point. We’re trying to change the stigma, but that will have to be an issue for another day as we address other programs and resources on our campuses.”
Voters will decide April 7.
“If we are going to continue to grow and better serve the community, we need this project to be approved.” Bruce Barker, president of Chippewa Valley Technical College
"If we are going to continue to grow and better serve the community, we need this project to be approved.”
Bruce Barker, president of Chippewa Valley Technical College
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