FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Seeking to ensure that Coconino Community College continues to meet the needs of northern Arizona residents, the College's District Governing Board voted unanimously June 25 to seek voter-approved tax funding to protect and preserve the College's core missions.
"This to me, as difficult as it is, is our only option, unless we cut core programs that the public has told us they need," said District Governing Board Chairman Patrick Hurley at the June meeting. "The staff has done a tremendous job of being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars."
The Governing Board opted to seek a voter-approved $4.5 million property tax increase, which calculates to a monthly increase of $2.40 for every $100,000 in property value or about $29 per year. The override election would be scheduled for Nov. 5, 2013.
District Governing Board members said the additional funding is imperative to protect the programs that the community has identified as critical.
"It's up to us to give the community a chance to express their desire to keep the quality instruction that the community college is noted for, in exchange for a small increase of taxes," said Board member Nat White.
Earlier this year, a Citizens' Review Panel, comprised of local business and community leaders, recommended the College seek voter approval for a property tax increase of $5.5 million to a $6.5 million budget increase.
"The Board decided $4.5 million was probably a better direction to take, mostly because of the economy," Hurley said.
A survey, conducted by GlobaLocal Visions, LLC., found more than three-quarters of those surveyed in Coconino County have a positive impression of CCC and that many were likely to support a property tax increase if it meant saving vital College programs, such as nursing and firefighter training.
The Governing Board reviewed the independent Panel's findings, along with the results of a public opinion survey gauging the community's attitudes toward the College. The combination of substantial state funding cuts, rising costs, and limited revenues have left the College in a continuing budget crisis.
Governing Board members decided that asking voters to approve the lower amount of $4.5 million was the best option, given the current economy, and would still allow the College to preserve its core missions.
The College has a three-prong mission:
1. Provide career and technical education that is much needed in northern Arizona, including: nursing, fire science and paramedic instruction.
2. Prepare students within the educational pipeline seeking bachelor's degrees and beyond through programs such as the award winning transition program of CCC2NAU, STEM classes and high school programs where students earn college credit while still in high school.
3. Provide training for employees at local and regional companies, workforce development and lifelong learning opportunities for all Coconino County residents.
CCC has already taken substantial cost-cutting steps including more than 100 initiatives that slashed nearly $4 million from the budget; 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.