Dec 262012

By Linda Kor
The Navajo County Community College District Governing Board reviewed information provided by Northland Pioneer College Vice President of Administrative Services Blaine Hatch regarding the budget as-sumptions and guidelines for fiscal year 2013-14 during their last meeting. Hatch opened by stating that he anticipated that revenues to the college are expected to remain flat compared to the current fiscal year.
“The $400,000 in capital state aid that we were receiving up until 2007-08 school went away and has not returned. There is lobbying currently taking place to restore those funds. If so, then those funds would be used toward STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs and equipment purchases,” stated Hatch.
Equalization revenues, based on rural property valuations, increased steadily from 2003 until 2010, then began to decrease due to formulaic changes. “Equalization aid has been the only growth from state revenues and has been a significant benefit to the college (in the past),” stated Hatch, adding that he anticipates a one-time addition of $100,000 for the 2013-14 school year due to the county valuations used for calculation for aid this year.
The 50 percent decrease in state funding that took place in 2011-12 had a strong impact on the college with a $2 million reduction in funds. Hatch expects that there will be little change in the dollar amount received this year over last year.
Hatch also indicated the college would be making incremental increases to tuition costs. “We will remain competitive, but per credit hour NPC has been the lowest (in cost) for quite some time. We would like to remain in the lower part of the group,” he said.
“Primary property tax will be levied at the maximum rate, which is two percent higher than in the current year tax and will require a truth-in-taxation hearing. Property tax valuation is expected to continue to decline, causing a greater than two percent increase in the current tax rate of $1.3515 per $100 net asset value,” ex-plained Hatch.
“If we don’t levy the maximum tax rate to promote services the state would wonder why they should provide additional tax funds to equalization and could put $6 million at risk,” he added.
Hatch pointed out that the wage increase of six percent for the 2012-13 year was substantially higher than the state average for community college employees, which was three percent. “This was the highest wage adjustment for the state,” said Hatch.
James Matteson, who was seated on the board immediately before the meeting, questioned whether the wage structure for the college had been depressed.
Hatch replied that it had not been.
Board Chairman Bill Jeffers clarified the matter by stating that several years ago there was a two percent cut to wages. “Staff suggested a two percent decrease without much complaint for survival across the board. The impact was not as great as expected and this was an attempt to make up for that cut,” he said.
Matteson nodded, “That makes the six percent understandable. The graph presented indicates that we are well off,” indicating that he was asking for clarification of the increase.
Hatch explained how the two percent loss was made up for with the two percent increase plus the addition of another four percent, stating that from his perspective the increase made up for the cut several years ago.
Matteson then asked if wages for staff and faculty are in line with comparable wages for other community colleges.
“In the past we’ve been in the mid-range, but with the six percent increase we are slightly above mid-range,” replied Hatch.
“If our intent is to get the best faculty possible and develop programs, I think we should look at that,” said Matteson.
NPC President Dr. Jeanne Swarthout noted that the administration seated at the table, which included her-self, a director and two vice presidents, were the lowest paid in the state, but that they don’t care. “The salaries range depending on the category, but our faculty is above average,” she said.
Matteson continued, stating, “With the costs facing students we should be in the top one-third percentile. I’m supportive of a good wage for good work. With the high technology positions this county (requires), are they competitively paid?” asked Matteson.
Director of Information Services Eric Bishop responded by stating that they are not. “We have people who complete training then are hired away by the county or another public entity. They are not paid on a scale to be competitive,” he said, adding that a data base position that is open at the college has not even received applicants due to pay and location. “With the type of infrastructure here we have to duplicate at several sites and combine them all under one service. It can be very stressful,” explained Bishop.
“Perhaps six percent for IT (information technology) people is not adequate. Technology is the way this organization will grow,” stated Matteson.
Hatch concluded the discussion by stating that items in budget requests will be linked to the current NPC Strategic Plan. Any budget amounts that are higher than the fiscal year 2012-13 budget or actual historical spending will require written justification and review during the budget hearing process. Budget requests for operational and capital expenditures will be completed by Friday, Feb. 1.