The Coconino Community College system is in need of a helping hand. It’s now up to the voters as to whether or not they will be the ones to provide it.
The college is seeking voter approval on Tuesday, Nov. 8 to enact a property tax override for a period of seven years beginning in 2019. If approved, an additional property tax of $3 million per year for seven years will be levied to support the college.
On Tuesday, Oct. 11, CCC President Colleen Smith appeared before the Sedona City Council to explain why the college is in need of this tax override. The college now has the highest tuition of any community college in the state. However, CCC’s district has the lowest tax rate in the state and thus, less money is generated.
Currently the tuition is approximately $500 per year higher than the state average. Coconino County high school graduates and others are leaving the community to seek lower tuition rates at other community colleges around the state, Smith said.
If passed by the voters, an average homeowner — based on assessed value — in Coconino County would pay about an additional $1 per month over the current property tax amount. In the Sedona area, it would affect those living in the Uptown area and Oak Creek Canyon.
“We could be planning curriculum and starting to develop programs so that we can hit the ground running and maybe put in little bits and pieces until we get there and have the funding,” Smith said in regard to the funding not taking effect until 2019.
CCC averages about 7,500 students annually through its system but unlike years ago, currently no classes are offered in Sedona. CCC board member Nat White said they hope to change that if the demand and availability of instructors are there.
“Because of the way Sedona has grown, we’re way past the tipping point where I think the college — and I’m just speaking as one board member — should have a more significant presence down here,” White said.
Smith said she was unaware of the number of residents from Sedona who take classes at CCC but would be happy to provide that information to the council.
According to the college’s website, they have made several cuts over the years in order to stay afloat. Some of those include:
- Eliminated Community and Corporate Learning.
- Reduced services and offerings in Page.
- Reduced the nursing program from 40 graduates per year to 20.
- Eliminated music and dance classes.
- Eliminated the early childhood education certificate and education degree.
- Eliminated 40 positions at the college.
- Eliminated discounts for students taking more courses per semester.
- Established differential tuition for high-cost programs.
- Established a credit card fee.
- Established a no-show fee.
- Increased parking fees.
In the past, the state covered nearly 40 percent of the college’s general budget. But during the recession, Smith said that figure dropped and now stands at just 11 percent. The remainder comes from tuition and fees [45 percent] and property taxes [44 percent]. She said nationwide, tuition and property taxes each account for one-third of community colleges’ budgets.
“The idea is to keep community colleges not only accessible but affordable to provide educational opportunities for those who might never have the opportunity to otherwise go to college,” she said.