Private parties considering purchasing and operating WyoTech could do so with the support of the Albany County Commission, which passed a resolution Monday saying it could not afford to assist Laramie County Community College’s proposed partnership with the school.
The County Commission passed a resolution Feb. 23 stating it would support a partnership between WyoTech and Laramie County Community College, and explore options to provide the community college with about $750,000 a year for WyoTech’s operational costs.
Albany County Commissioner Heber Richardson said the commission investigated different funding options to raise money to help LCCC with the expenses of running WyoTech, but were unable to find funding. Because the county would not be able to support the partnership, the commission started looking at other options to keep WyoTech open.
“Since studying (potential funding options), we have figured out — and maybe we always knew — that we have little funding available to support the ongoing operations,” Richardson said. “Personally as a policy matter, I don’t really see why the state or the local community should fund something that private business can take care of.”
As the County Commission looked further into WyoTech’s situation, they learned more about private funding options they were previously unaware of before the supporting LCCC Educational Credit Management Corporation moved away from working with nonprofit organizations, he said.
“At the time, it was known that ECMC — the parent company of Zenith — wanted it to go to a nonprofit, which meant probably the public option,” Richardson said. “Since then it has evolved, that they would consider all of the choices including private or private nonprofit or private for-profit, so that that makes there be more options on the table.”
He said along with providing LCCC with funding the county does not have, a problem that could occur with the partnership is annexing Albany County into LCCC’s community college district.
“If it were going to do to a tax — the community college district tax to the voters — it could be too late,” Richardson said. “There is a lot of ifs and you don’t know if on the public side you can get through all of those hoops … while we wait for the voters to decide on if they would join the community college tax district.”
County Commissioner Terri Jones said she wants to see the trade school stay open but it would be a burden on taxpayers for the rest of the school’s life if Albany County is part of the community college district.
“I think that it is really one of our really important resources and we need to try to keep (WyoTech) here,” Jones said. “But I would certainly like to see it here privately and not burdening the tax payers substantially.”
Richardson said another advantage to a private organization taking over WyoTech is they could come in and announce they are keeping the school open the next day.
“The public option has timeline problems, in other words the community college option has a time line problems, and questions as to whether the funding would actually be ultimately authorized or available,” Richardson said. “Private money walks in the door and can take possession of that and run it right now, before it closes.”