Community colleges ask gaming commission to reconsider the 5-percent tax break

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Gov. John Hickenlooper has asked the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission to overturn a 5-percent tax break for Colorado casinos in an effort to save funding for community colleges and historic preservation groups.

While the gaming industry argues that the tax decrease will bring much-needed relief after three consecutive years of revenue losses, community colleges say they can’t afford to take another hit.

“The governor is very concerned and disappointed in the decision for a number of reasons, foremost for its impact on community colleges and local communities.” said Eric Brown, spokesman for the governor’s office.

Community colleges and historic preservation groups are among the primary recipients of gaming tax revenue.

Brown said the governor has been contacting members of the gaming commission and is trying to organize a meeting with commission chairman Meyer Saltzman.

The Gaming Commission has already denied requests from the Colorado Community College System in the form of a letter from Colorado Community College System President Nancy McCallin, asking it to reconsider the tax decrease, which is scheduled to go into effect July 1.

The letter now serves as the community college system’s official statement regarding the tax reduction.

It states that the community college system foresees a budget cut of as much as $1.7 million as a result of the tax cut. It also notes that the state’s community college system budget has been cut by $30 million since the FY 2009-2010, while enrollment has risen by more than 26,000 during the same period.

New Pikes Peak Community College President Lance Bolton said his budget will be hit, too.

He said the college has received about $900,000 from gaming revenue so far this fiscal year. Losing 5 percent of that will not be easy.

“Given rising enrollments and decreased funding, this is not welcome news,” he said, adding that the gambling revenue covered faculty salaries for the college’s most popular course areas, math, English and biology.

The college will have to draw from its general fund to cover those expenses and will then lose money for other programs, he said.

Brown said Hickenlooper is making his best effort to convince the gambling commission to rethink its course, but that he doubts it will.

“Ultimately, it is up to them,” he said.