by Michael Howell
The Ravalli County Commissioners decided last Wednesday to help kick-start the transition process from the existing Bitterroot College UM to the recently formed Bitterroot Valley Community College (BVCC) by giving the new district a short-term loan to get started as they wait for the state’s legislatively authorized $400,000 in transitional funding to arrive.
BVCC Board members Sue Smith and Ran Pigman told the commissioners that the primary reason for their funding request for $13,000 was to cover the district’s initial payment for liability insurance, but it would also cover the purchase of some office supplies and some community outreach expenses. Smith explained that the board had taken out a liability insurance policy that was activated a month prior to the first payment being due under the mistaken conception that the district would receive its legislatively authorized funds in August and use them to pay the insurance. Those funds are now not expected to arrive in the county’s hands until sometime after September 22. That delay, they said, was due to the need for the Board of Regents to review the district’s budget prior to the funds being released. The Board of Regents is scheduled to meet on September 7.
There was hesitancy on the commissioners’ part to fund the college’s request given that Ravalli County voters had approved forming the district but had also specifically declined to fund the college district in the last election. Deputy County Attorney Royce McCarty offered as an alternative that the county could make a short-term loan to the district with payment on the loan due upon receipt of the state funding.
County Commissioner Greg Chilcott made a motion to loan the BVCC $13,000 interest free for a year, after which interest would be charged. The money will come from the PILT reserve fund and the re-payment will be swept off the top of the legislative funding when it arrives and returned to the County coffers. He said there was precedent for such action, citing the county’s short-term loans to Lone Rock School and the Ravalli County Economic Development Authority.
The commission voted unanimously to approve the loan.