July 9, 2014

Editorial: Community colleges improve region

It makes sense that a more educated population would find better employment opportunities, hence reducing the need for public services.

It shouldn’t take studies to convince community leaders, though plenty of reports affirm the benefits of college education — to individuals and to communities.

So it is always surprising how some county officials react when local community-college officials stand before them with budget requests.

Legislators should be thanking these institutions for all they do to educate the people of the North Country and asking what they can do to ensure that quality programs continue.

Instead, college presidents are often put on the hot seat, grilled about line items. 

If the budget numbers were way out of hand, you might understand this approach; after all, county legislators are protecting taxpayer funds. But huge increases are rare.

Lawmakers must look years ahead at the impact on the lives of local people and decide whether spending serves a public good. In the case of community colleges, the answer is almost always a resounding yes.

North Country Community College, which is based in Saranac Lake but also has campuses in Malone and Ticonderoga, recently approached its sponsors, Essex and Franklin counties, with a budget increase.

NCCC was asking for $50,000 more from each county for 2014-15 — for a total of $1,190,000 each — plus $50,000 each for the capital fund, the same amount as last school year.

It is the first increase NCCC has sought in five years — a long time without an increase, in our opinion.

Essex County supervisors apparently saw the wisdom in this modest increase; they unanimously approved the 4 percent boost Monday.

Things didn’t go as smoothly in Franklin County, where legislators had a number of questions and voiced apprehension about whether they could afford the $50,000-a-year hike.

NCCC President Dr. Steven Tyrell said some of the legislators there are new and needed more information. They plan to vote July 17, and Tyrell hopes to ease their concerns then.

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