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SHERIDAN — City Council members answered a challenge from Whitney Benefits to help fund four new technology-based faculty positions at Sheridan College by approving allocation of Optional One-Cent Sales Tax economic development funds to the college over four years at its regularly scheduled meeting Monday.
Each year, starting retroactively with 2012, the city will give Sheridan College $62,500 for a total of $250,000. Funds will come from fiscal year 2012 economic contingency rollover funds as well as Optional One-Cent economic development funds.
“This is the just-in-case for which we’ve set money aside,” Mayor Dave Kinskey said during discussion of the grant match.
Jon Connolly, vice president of academic affairs, said the funds will help Sheridan College hire four new technology-based instructors, which will help close the skills gap between technical jobs that need to be filled and post-secondary credentials. He said the college has 60 percent more students now than 10 years ago, which has lead to a faculty shortage.
Whitney Benefits recently pledged $1 million, half of the required $2 million needed to pay four new instructors over the next five years. It then issued a challenge for others in the community to match its pledge.
Councilor Levi Dominguez said he’d like to see efforts to retain Sheridan College graduates for local jobs if the city is going to invest so much into the program. Councilor Kristin Kelly said she would like to see emphasis placed on encouraging women to pursue technical jobs, such as machining, welding, diesel technology and agriculture, that pay a good wage in order to decrease the equality gap.
In other business:
• Council approved an allocation of $8,440.84 to Forward Sheridan to help defray expenditures Forward Sheridan had to make in order to pay for a study to determine the feasibility of another rail line east of Sheridan. The study cost $98,300, which was originally covered, but Forward Sheridan had to pitch in $16,881.67 of its own funds to meet a shortfall in pledged funds from the coal industry.
“We do have the funding, and it’s an appropriate use for it,” city Treasurer Jennifer Reed said. Funds will come from Optional One-Cent Sales Tax contingency funding.
• Council also approved Trees for Trash and Free landfill days. Free landfill days will fall on April 27-28, May 4 and May 18-19 this spring. The Council approved two additional weekends in the fall for free landfill days. These are Oct. 19-20 and 26-27.