CVTC seeks to build Energy Education Center

June 20, 2012

From “Funds sought for building on CVTC’s West Campus” — A $7.9 million Energy Education Center planned for Chippewa Valley Technical College’s West Campus in Eau Claire is included in the school’s budget for the upcoming academic year.

Scheduled for a hearing and vote Thursday evening, CVTC’s 2012-13 budget would increase spending for the building and associated renovations but would not raise property taxes.

“There’s zero dollar change in the levy when compared to last year,” said Kirk Moist, CVTC’s director of finance and budgeting.

The upcoming budget is the second year of a state-mandated freeze on technical colleges’ operating costs, and CVTC’s debt payments are staying level.

CVTC plans to pay for the Energy Education Center — consisting of a 24,000-square-foot renovation of the Transportation Center on the West Campus and a 30,000-square-foot addition — through a mix of its own funding and donations.

“The big ‘if’ is there still is private-sector money being raised to pay for a large portion of the project,” said Doug Olson, CVTC’s executive director of facilities.

About $1 million in business donations still is needed before the project can move forward, he said.

When all the money is secured, CVTC would need the approval of its own board and the state Technical College System Board before building the new center.

The center will teach applications of alternative energy sources, including biofuels, solar power, geothermal heating and wind energy. College programs including heating, ventilation and air conditioning; civil engineering; construction; and electrical power distribution would be based at the center because those fields are seeing increasing use of green technology.

In recent years the college renovated parts of the Business Education Center, but the last major project was the creation of the $10.25 million Health Education Center in 2004.

“Anytime we do a major project, there’s an upward blip,” Moist said of CVTC’s spending.

The proposed budget shows a minor bump up for what taxpayers will be billed for CVTC.

The owner of a $100,000 home that paid $174.17 in taxes last year to CVTC would see a $2.65 tax increase under the proposed budget. But that’s only assuming the property value of that hypothetical home did not fall.

While the tax rate paid by homeowners will appear larger on their bill in December, that’s because property values have fallen in the technical college district’s 11-county area and are expected to again decline.

“Our property values have gone down three years in a row,” Moist said.

Currently valued at about $20.3 billion, properties within the district are projected to fall in value by about $305 million in the next year, according to CVTC’s proposed budget.


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