Bay College hosts Casperson, LaFave

ESCANABA — State Rep. Beau LaFave and State Sen. Tom Casperson spoke with members of the Bay College Board of Trustees about community college funding, ongoing efforts to fight the “dark store” tax theory, and other issues facing the college Friday afternoon. This discussion took place during a luncheon and special board meeting.

According to Bay College President Laura Coleman, similar meetings have occasionally been held by the college in the past.

“It’s something that we like to do … where you just get together with the legislators and have a conversation about the college,” she said.

Coleman said one of the motivating factors behind the decision to hold another one of these meetings in 2017 was LaFave’s election last November.

“This just seemed like a good idea — Beau LaFave is brand new to the position,” she said.

At the beginning of the meeting, Coleman spoke about Bay College’s funding model. She said that, in 1992-93, 45 percent of Bay’s funding was made up of state appropriations. However, in 2014-15, state appropriations made up 34 percent of the college’s funding.

“There’s been a significant decline,” she said.

As the college’s property tax funding only increased from 13 percent to 16 percent over the same period of time, Coleman said they have had to make up the difference by raising their tuition and fees.

“That means our students are paying over 50 percent of the cost of education,” Coleman said.

Because of this, Coleman encouraged Casperson and LaFave to resist attempts to cut funding to ­community colleges.

“When they start talking about the possibility of cutting community colleges, know that that kind of thing really hits us, and it hits us very, very hard,” she said.

Also addressed during the meeting was the current status of the dark store tax theory in Michigan. This theory allows big box stores to be valued as if they were out of business for tax purposes, resulting in decreased revenues to tax-supported entities — including Bay College.

As a bill regarding dark stores approved by Michigan’s House was not passed by the Senate before the end of the 2016 lame-duck session, bills dealing with this topic must be written or re-introduced in both chambers.

Casperson said that, while he is not opposed to lowering taxes, the dark store theory is not just a simple tax break.

“This was a fairness issue,” he said.

LaFave said he is concerned about the “ripple effect” created by reducing tax revenues in this manner.

“It’s a whole shift — it’s changing everything to do with it,” he said.

At the end of the meeting, Coleman thanked LaFave and Casperson for visiting the college.

“Thank you guys very, very much for coming,” she said.