Eastern Idaho getting closer to a community college as petition moves forward

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IDAHO FALLS — The process of turning Eastern Idaho Technical College into local community college is becoming closer to reality after a petition was submitted to Bonneville County on Friday.

Local advocacy group Citizens for Affordable Higher Education, brought a petition with some 3,400 signatures to the Bonneville County Elections Office. The petition calls for the formation of a community college district encompassing the county.

“Basically the petition does two things. It basically provides that a new college is created called the College of Eastern Idaho, and establishes a community college district that is all of Bonneville County,” said Steven Taggart, spokesman for Citizens for Affordable Higher Education.

One thousand valid signatures are required for the initiative to move forward. The election office is verifying those signatures so the petition can move on to its next phase and eventually appear on a ballot.

“We’ve gotten started on them. It’s going to be a few days. We’ve probably gotten a couple hundred (signatures verified). So far they’re looking really good,” Election Supervisor Brenda Prudent said.

Once the petition is verified by the county election office it will be sent to the Idaho State Board of Education. The board oversees both public and higher education.

Taggart said the board must verify the need for a community college in eastern Idaho. The board has 30 days to do so. After the need is confirmed and it is reported back to the Bonneville County Commission and the issue can be approved for the ballot.

“The state law says that you create a community college district and then you specify the name of the college,” Taggart said. “Our petition says that the community college will be The College of Eastern Idaho, as the successor, or followup to Eastern Idaho Technical College.”

Taggart said county commissioners could receive approval by the January or February 2017. Taggart says he projects for the measure being put on the May 2017 ballot.

“They typically put things on the ballot as soon as they can,” Taggart said.

If citizens vote for Bonneville County to be the community college district, it will serve as the financial support for the college. The name for the college, The College of Eastern Idaho, can then be established.

The Citizens for Affordable Higher Education group says the change of EITC to a community college can be an affordable one.

“EITC is in a unique position at this point in time to become a comprehensive community college. This vote is the only way to create a new community college in Idaho,” said EITC President Rick Aman.

There isn’t a need for new infrastructure at EITC with its existing buildings. Five million dollars have been allocated by Idaho State Legislature for startup costs, and local property taxes would increase by about $13.37 per year for the average homeowner in Bonneville County.

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