Officials at the Albany County branch of Laramie County Community College are renewing a request to form a Board of Cooperative Education Services with Albany County School District No. 1.
Under Wyoming statute, school districts and community college districts can form a BOCES, which allows them to levy additional property taxes to fund education services.
The power is derived from a 1969 law passed by the Legislature aimed at having school districts and community colleges “work together and cooperate to provide educational services, including but not limited to postsecondary education, vocational-technical education, adult education and services for children with disabilities, when the services can be more effectively provided through a cooperative effort.”
Such boards have proliferated around the state, and LCCC is the only community college in the state to not be involved in a BOCES.
In 2017, LCCC had asked Albany County’s school board to back the creation of a local BOCES. The school board rejected the idea at the time.
At a Wednesday work session of the school board, LCCC officials brought the idea back.
School board members expressed apprehension, but not outright opposition.
School board chair Janice Marshall said she feared establishing a BOCES could create tax fatigue in the county, especially after the recent bond campaign for the new Laramie High School.
“When I look at my taxes — of the 68 mills that I’m levied, 48 of those are education-related,” Marshall said. “It concerns me to levy another tax on the community.”
Only a majority vote of the school board and the LCCC’s trustees is required to establish a BOCES.
The BOCES could then levy up to a half-mill property tax without having to take the issue to the ballot.
If a BOCES were to be established, school board member Lawrence Perea suggested that the half-mill question should go to the ballot regardless — assuming that would be allowable under statute.
The half-mill would likely generate about $250,000 a year.
A BOCES can also levy up to two additional mills if voters were to approve the measure during a general election.
Brady Hammond, LCCC’s associate vice president for the Albany County campus, said BOCES funding would allow the county to fund some programs that aren’t in the typical scope of K-12 spending, like early childhood education or paying for LCCC tuition fees for high schoolers.
Hammond said LCCC would be a strong supporter of the BOCES, even if the college didn’t directly receive any funding.
“We are interested in supporting education,” Hammond said. “If we do early childhood education, we would benefit in 18 years, but we would benefit.”
Hammond said supporting career and technical education in Albany County could also be a decent use of BOCES funding.
School board members suggested forming a committee to determine what programs would likely be funded through a BOCES before even considering the idea.
“I think we need to be cautious to not go after BOCES and then decide what we want to use it for,” board member Mark Bittner said. “We need to clearly identify the needs that we have and then decide if we want to go after BOCES.”