The Coconino Community College’s Citizens’ Review Panel recently presented its recommendations to the District Governing Board, which will decide whether to ask County residents for help.
The Governing Board is reviewing the information and findings, along with the results of a public opinion survey gauging the community’s attitudes toward the College. The combination of state budget cuts, rising costs, and limited revenues have left the College in a continuing budget crisis. The College’s continuing financial challenges prompted the Citizens’ Panel to recommend the CCC District Governing Board ask voters for a property tax increase.
Russ Yelton, President/Chief Executive Officer of Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology (NACET) and a member of Citizens’ Panel, told Governing Board members that through the Panel’s work, he learned that without an increase in funding, the College would likely be forced to make fundamental shifts in its core mission.
“The community needs to understand that if they are not willing to step up, there could be dramatic changes in the College’s mission that would negatively affect Coconino County and northern Arizona,” Yelton said.
The College’s education focus is three-prong:
1. To provide career and technical education that is highly sought-after in northern Arizona, including: nursing, fire science and paramedic instruction.
2. Serve as an educational pipeline for students seeking bachelor’s degrees and beyond through programs such as the award winning transition program of CCC2NAU and high school programs where students earn college credit while still in high school.
3. Provide corporate training for local and regional companies, workforce development and lifelong learning courses for all Coconino County residents.
The Governing Board also reviewed a survey, conducted by GlobaLocal Visions, LLC., that found more than three-quarters of likely voters in Coconino County have a positive impression of CCC and that most were more likely to support a property tax increase if it meant saving vital College programs, such as nursing and firefighter training.
Yelton, along with Panel members present at the meeting including former Flagstaff Mayor Chris Bavasi; Molly Munger, former Community Relations Director for Northern Arizona University; Richard Bowen, Director of the Economic Collaborative of Northern Arizona (ECoNA) and Coconino County Sheriff Bill Pribil, commended CCC for taking cost-cutting steps including more than 100 initiatives that slashed nearly $4 million from the budget. CCC reduced staff by 15 percent, eliminated 30 percent of its certificate and degree programs and most recently closed the Williams campus.
Meanwhile, the College has been forced to raise tuition to the highest level of any community college in Arizona. The high tuition rate is a direct consequence of very low property taxes and state funding cuts.
In 1991, Coconino County voters approved the creation of Coconino Community College. Over the past 20 years, the College’s mission has expanded to meet community needs, but CCC’s property taxes have been strictly limited -- the lowest of any community college in Arizona. CCC receives less than $40 per every $100,000 of taxable property value, while the next lowest, Mohave Community College, receives about $110.
The Panel submitted the following: “Based on our review, we, the Citizens’ Review Panel support Coconino Community College seeking voter approval for a property tax increase of between $36 to $42 for every $100,000 in assessed value. The monthly cost increase is between $3 to $4, which represents a $5.5 and $6.5 million budget increase; as part of the College’s continuing strategies to meet the needs of the residents and employers of Coconino County, in conjunction with examining differential tuition and fees, continuing program reviews and continuing operational efficiencies. The higher funding would stabilize the College’s finances, allow it to offer some new programs and support a modest growth in enrollment.”
“This is a chance for the community to decide what this college is going to look like,” Yelton said. “If the College cuts back on training, someone is going to have pay for it. In addition, we need to offer a well-educated workforce for our business community to thrive.”
The District Governing Board will examine the Citizens’ Review Panel recommendations and survey results at future Board meetings. Other Citizens’ Review Panel members include: Coral Evans, Member, Flagstaff City Council; Brynn Johns, O&M Manager of Cost Services, Salt River Project-Navajo Generation Station; Mandy Metzger, District 4 Supervisor, Coconino County Board of Supervisors (Non-Voting Member) and Eva Putzova, Director, Institutional Research/Policy Analyst for Northern Arizona University.
For more information about the Citizens’ Review Panel recommendation or Panel members, visit: www.coconino.edu/pr/community.