Plans for setting up Gillette College in its own district are on hold for now while backers of the plan in Campbell County seek additional information from Wyoming’s attorney general.
Campbell County Commissioner Rusty Bell, one of the advocates of a separate college district, said the question before the attorney general is whether an election can to be held in Campbell County before the Legislature considers establishing Gillette as an independent college, or whether the Legislature must make that decision before an election can be held.
If the vote can be held first, a special election could be held as early as next May. But if the Legislature must act first, those who support the idea of a separate college don’t know when an election might happen, since at this time, there’s uncertainty as to when Wyoming legislators will convene.
Bell said the question that will be placed before voters in Campbell County will be whether they want to establish their own college district and if they are willing to accept a tax levy of up to 4 mills to fund the college.
Currently, as part of the Northern Wyoming Community College District, which includes Sheridan College and the Sheridan College Campus in Johnson County, Campbell County residents don’t pay a mill levy for Gillette College.
Bell said it’s his understanding that, in order to receive state funding, community colleges in Wyoming have to levy 4 mills in local taxes.
Gillette College already has its own campus, including buildings for classrooms and student housing, and Bell said a lot of those buildings are, in fact, owned by Campbell County or the city of Gillette. He said they have been funded primarily by the county, the city, the state of Wyoming or Gillette College’s own college foundation.
The college has been part of the Northern Wyoming Community College District since its creation in 1969, but Bell said the Northern Wyoming district is based in Sheridan College, and all of the members of the board are Sheridan County residents.
He said a desire for local control is driving the current movement to establish Gillette College as its own district.