By Linda Kor –
The Navajo County Community College District Governing Board held a heated discussion April 19 re-garding the preliminary budget presented by Northland Pioneer College Vice President of Administrative Services Blaine Hatch.
The preliminary budget of $22.1 million was approved by a majority of the board, including President Bill Jeffers, Ginny Handorf and Daniel Peaches for fiscal year 2010-11, with Dusty Parsons opposing the motion and Louella Nahsonhoya absent from the proceedings. The total represents a 14.2 percent decrease from the 2009-10 budget.
Parsons took issue with Hatch’s explanation of the need for the college to seek the maximum limitation of a two percent increase to property taxes when he was able to produce a balanced budget that included carryo-ver funds from this year’s budget.
“I have analyzed this budget. The purpose of a budget is for one year, not the next year or the one after. We are assuming tuitions that don’t exist at this time. It looks like we’re coloring the budget for carryover. We continue to carry over (funds) and increase taxes, and that’s not appropriate. There is no taxpayer saying in-crease taxes!” Parsons stated.
He added that there was no reason the college should increase property taxes in a difficult economy if it’s not necessary. “We can do every item you talked about without dipping into the $3.8 million carryover. My point is that a $772,000 increase from taxes will not make this college prosper.”
Bill Jeffers asked if Parsons would prefer that the college go out to bond in the future as state funds deplete rather than be prudent in planning for the future now.
“We have a $3.5 to $4 million carryover each year, where’s it going? This is not correct. You can do with-out the tax increase and still have carryover if we needed to. I guarantee this is not needed. We’re simply doing it because we can,” argued Parsons.
Jeffers asked Parsons to clarify his statement regarding the accounting of carryover funds by asking if he was claiming funds have been mishandled. “Are you giving me your opinion that money has disappeared from this college?” he asked.
“No, but I can’t find them. When was the last time this college didn’t come in under budget?” Parsons asked.
Jeffers replied by stating that it goes into capital so that the college doesn’t have to go out to bond.
Handorf interjected that truly effective college boards build resources. “I think we’re looking too much at managing line items and not the total picture. I think we’re going overboard when we try to detail manage-ment’s job; it’s not our place. The board should work together toward the health of the college and not get too carried away with numbers,” said Handorf.
Parsons disagreed, stating he represented his district and the taxpayers. “I am here to represent District IV,” he said.
Handorf quickly countered, “No, you represent the college on behalf of District IV.”
Parsons stood his ground on the issue, stating, “In my opinion you can raise the tax, but it affects economic vitality. If it needed to be raised, I would support it, but I won’t if the bottom line says not to,” he stated.
In response, Jeffers stated, “The taxpayers said in good times or bad we can raise taxes no more than two percent, that’s what they said.”
Parsons also opposed another agenda item in which Hatch sought approval to issue requests for proposals for the Aspen Center canopy project at the White Mountain Campus in Show Low.
The documentation presented with the item included a design development cost estimate produced by Rider Levett Bucknall, a property and construction practice with a base bid amount of $389,000.
While the Aspen Center is in need of a solution to shifting soil that is damaging sidewalks around the cen-ter, Parsons argued that the process being presented was not only incorrect, but also possibly illegal.
“If I know what I’m talking about, and I do because I’ve done this for 30 years, you don’t issue proposals for construction,” stated Parsons, who added that the proper process is to issue proposals for engineering plans or requests for design, then go out to bid for construction.
The other issue of concern for Parsons was that the construction of a canopy for the Aspen Center was part of the 2011-12 budget, not the budget for this fiscal year.
“How can you approve a project without funds? You’re saying to move forward on a project, so what are you doing? Are you going to come back with an amount on this in July? I think this is illegal,” he said.
Hatch stated that funds are available at this time to advance toward the project until the next fiscal year if necessary. Whether the item was considered legal could not be readily determined. The majority of the board approved a motion to move forward in an appropriate legal fashion with the Aspen Center planning project. Parsons opposed the motion, stating that there was no funding for the project to move forward for this fiscal year.
Also included in the preliminary budget as capital projects for the 2011-12 fiscal year was $500,000 for an “aggressive” catch up plan for ongoing maintenance, $200,000 for a facility master plan, $450,000 for a park-ing lot at the White Mountain Campus due to deterioration and the need for expansion, $200,000 for vehicle replacement and $47,700 for information technology related services.
In other action April 19, the board:
* Approved the 2011-12 wage and salary schedules.
* Approved the revised employee contracts.
* Approve the purchase of Cisco networking equipment.
* Approved the data/network service contract.
* Approved the addition of a new Computer Information Systems certificate of proficiency and deletion of the Computer Technology in Business Associate of Applied Science degree.