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Based on unofficial election results, residents of Campbell County, Wyoming voted on Tuesday to allow Gillette College to be distinguished from Northern Wyoming Community College after a controversial special election. Post By the county clerk’s office.

The decision was made after weeks of voting, and sometimes even fierce infighting among county residents. Supporters of the voting proposal believe that the community will benefit from the establishment of a university under local leadership, while opponents are angry that the new district will impose a new property tax. Fierce controversy over the election broke out on social media, with voters accusing each other of confusion and peddling misinformation.

The Northern Wyoming Community College District serves Sheridan, Johnson, and Campbell counties and is managed by a board of seven officials elected by the citizens of Sheridan County. A representative of Gillette College’s advisory committee attended the board meeting but lacked formal voting rights.

Gillette College, located in the county seat of Gillette, will now be able to form its own community college district and a new board of directors, which voters also elected on Tuesday. (There are 23 candidates on the ballot of the seven-seat committee.) Having this autonomy will enable the college to work more closely with local employers to design academic programs that meet specific labor market needs, and provide education and training that directly lead to employment .

Janell Oberlander, associate dean of Gillette College, said that an independent school district will allow the college to be more “flexible” to respond to local labor needs.

“The main advantage is that you can have local control,” she said. “We must be able to provide new training opportunities. When a new company wants to enter our community, we need to be able to say,’This is what we can do and how quickly we can complete this work. This is where we introduce new technology speed.'”

For example, Josh McGrath, a member of the advisory board of Gillette College and one of the winning candidates for the new district board of directors, said that Campbell County, known for its coal, oil and gas industries, will benefit from university courses to train students in reclamation techniques. Restore land destroyed by coal mining. He also hopes to expand the college’s nursing curriculum to meet the needs of students. McGrath said that Gillette leaders brought these two ideas to the community college district in northern Wyoming, but they were rejected.

The special election takes place at Budget cuts across the board The North Wyoming Community College District allocated approximately US$4 million. In addition to other austerity measures, all sports at Sheridan College and Gillette College except for the men’s and women’s rodeo teams were cut in July last year to address an estimated $4 million in lost revenue, partly related to the pandemic and state funding. Reduce related.

“Don’t get me wrong, this is a working relationship,” McGrath said of the interaction between Gillette College and the Northern Wyoming Community College District. “But the citizens of Sheridan and Sheridan and the needs of Sheridan College are different from the needs of Gillette and Gillette and Campbell County citizens. They are just two very different communities. Geographically, they are away from here. There are still 100 miles on the road.”

The independence of the college requires a certain price. A state statute stipulates that the county can levy up to four factories—a factory is the amount of dollars that someone pays for every thousand dollars of taxable property—for the maintenance and operating costs of the college.A typical home in Campbell County is worth $275,636 ZilloIf county residents levy taxes on all four factories, the homeowner who owns the property of that value will pay approximately $105 per year. Property tax calculator On the county government website.

Jacob Dalby, 22, said that it doesn’t seem to be a lot of money, but “I personally talked to some elderly people who live on a fixed income. Some people live on only $600 a month.” Oppose the vote. The leader of the Anti-Tax Coalition of the Political Action Committee of the proposal. Even a small amount is “important to such a person.”

Dalby was unsuccessful as a candidate for the board of directors of the Gillette College District because he hoped that the board would have a “conservative voice” when the proposal was passed. The rancher also expressed concern that the tax burden would harm the local industry. He believes that under the environmental policy of the Biden administration, the local industry has been “as tense as possible”. The government announces new targets In April, cut greenhouse gas pollution by half from 2005 levels by 2030.Most greenhouse gas emissions From Burning fossil fuels, such as coal, natural gas, and oil, are common industries in Campbell County.

“This small town will eventually become a ghost town. The more taxes we add to it, it will only hurt it and make it faster,” Dalby said.

McGrath, the newly elected board member, pointed out that in a crimson state like Wyoming—almost 70% Of registered voters are Republicans-“tax” is a “dirty word”.

“Wyoming is essentially a very conservative state. This is who we are,” he said. “We tried to say that this is an investment in our community, and it is true.”

Walt Tribley, chairman of the community college district in northern Wyoming, said the opposition also reflects real concerns about the decline of the mining industry in Wyoming.

“When we observe those expressing emotions, we try to find out what is real?” he said. “Where did it come from? These people are usually really struggling. It feels like the country has turned a little bit. This has nothing to do with Gillette College.” Nevertheless, “These feelings are real and the family is affected.”

Discussions on special elections are particularly controversial.this Casper Star Tribune Report Gillette resident Jeff Raney, who has ran for the state Senate twice, filed two complaints with the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office, accusing a local retailer of comfortable footwear products that had ties to the Political Action Committee. The residents who supported the proposal and voted in favor.

Rancher Darby said voters told him that their neighbors “harassed” them because they had signs in the yard against the proposal. The Facebook page “Vote veto to save our community” is full of accusations that supporters of voting proposals have removed the “Vote veto” flag.

Voters who support the new university district insist that the election campaign initiated by the pro-party has always been a clean process.

“No one steals signs from the support,” McGrath said. “Frankly, it just didn’t happen.”

Tribley said this is not the first time Campbell County residents have sought independence for Gillette College. The proposal was put forward in 1985 and 1992, but the first attempt was rejected by the Wyoming Community College Committee, and the second time it was submitted to voters but ultimately failed.

Tribley said that with the departure of Gillette College, the northern region of Wyoming is expected to lose about $3 million, most of which is based on state funding for admissions. The region, like higher education institutions across the state, is already struggling to cut national budgets.Governor Mark Gordon Cut budget Last August, the number of students at the University of Wyoming and community colleges in the state fell by 10%. He called the overall budget cuts “destructive but necessary.”

However, the region has time to come up with other sources of income. Gillette College will continue to receive accreditation from Northern Wyoming until its own accreditation process is completed, which means that until then, the region will continue to receive state funding based on the enrollment of Gillette students.

Tribuli, the governor of Northern Wyoming, said he hopes the voting proposal will succeed, even if his district will be financially hit. He pointed out that Campbell County is the third largest county in the state.

“They want a university. There are enough people there and a strong voice,” he said. This seems to be a “worthy effort.”

Gillette Vice President Oberland noted that the college has grown since the county’s last fight for independence in the 1990s, when the college was run by an old hospital that was converted into classrooms. She said that the campus now includes more than a dozen buildings.

“The leadership of our community decided it was time,” she said.

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