By Nick Worth
The Navajo County Community College District Governing Board held the first reading of a resolution to make a four percent property tax levy at Tuesday’s meeting.
Northland Pioneer College Vice President for Administrative Services Blaine Hatch told the board that staff recommends the maximum allowable tax levy, which amounts to $14,608,093 for 2014-15. This is an increase of $694,418 over the current levy of $13,341,335.
According to Hatch, this means an increase from $1.48 to $1.66, or 18 cents, per $100 of assessed property valuation.
Board member Frank Lucero told Hatch he has some concerns with the tax levy.
“Why are we asking for more money when enrollment is going down?” Lucero asked. “People have been asking about this.”
“Enrollment is going down, so we need to invest in getting it back up,” Hatch answered. He said the many tuition breaks NPC is giving to students in the coming school years in order to grow enrollment make the tax levy necessary.
Board member James Matteson noted that there has been no new construction in the district. He also cited the loss of Overseas Aircraft and the Catalyst paper mill, as well as the potash situation in Russia and the Ukraine.
“I just don’t see anything happening,” Matteson said. “I would absolutely support going to the maximum tax levy of four percent. If you look at it, the total increase is $6 on a $100,000 home.”
“From the point of view of the taxpayers, it bothers me that we didn’t go for our two percent levy last year, but now we’re going for four percent,” said Board Chairman Ginny Handorf. “The taxpayers are going to ask, ‘What good did it do for me last year?’”
Handorf then suggested the board look at imposing a lower tax levy.
Lucero noted that Navajo County is the second poorest county in the state.
“The average wage is $24,000 per year,” he said.
Matteson noted that NPC faculty members are getting a two percent raise.
“The cost of doing business is going up at least four percent,” Matteson said. “I suppose we could raise tuition by $10 per credit hour, but this is a far more fair way of getting the money than charging the students $10 more per credit hour.”
Board member Prescott Winslow said that last year he supported the motion not to impose a tax levy, “But I approve of it this year.”
Hatch told the board Truth in Taxation notices will be published on May 2, 9 and 15 in local newspapers. A notice of the Truth in Taxation hearing scheduled for May 20 will also be published and sent as a news release to all area media. The news release will also contain information supporting the proposed levy.
Final action on the tax levy will be taken at the special meeting on Tuesday, May 20, following the Truth in Taxation and budget hearings, Hatch said.
In other action April 15, the board:
* Heard a financial report from Hatch. He said two-thirds of the budget year has expired and 65 percent of the property taxes have been collected. The general fund showed a year-to-date total revenue of $16.8 million. Expenditures from the general fund were at 55 percent and totaled $23.1 million.
* Heard an enrollment report from Vice President for Learning and Student Services Mark Vest, who reported NPC has a total headcount of 3,736.
“It looks like we have leveled out,” Vest told the board. He added that enrollment data for a number of semesters needs to be checked for comparison.
Vest said the full time student equivalent (FTSE) numbers are up 2.3 percent with a total of 1,737 FTSE from a headcount of 3,736 students.
He also reported that estimated statewide college enrollment has seen a 4.7 percent decrease.
Vest said among his concerns were Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology (NAVIT) enrollment, which is down 20 percent.
Enrollment in biology and other sciences, business classes, and starts in Mechatronics and construction were also up, but Vest said there has been “continued erosion” in math, engineering and some humanities classes from fall to spring semesters.
* Heard a report on the president’s evaluation from NPC President Dr. Jean Swarthout.
* Heard a review of the budget analysis from Hatch. He told the board the 2014-15 budget process remains on target. The budget is due to be adopted on May 20.
* Approved the preliminary budget.
* Approved the capital budget.
Lucero abstained from voting after questioning some high-dollar improvements needed at the Northeastern Arizona Training Center (NATC) in Taylor. When told that the modular building at the site needed to be replaced at a cost of $500,000 and the driving course needed to be repaved at a cost of $300,000, Lucero asked if NPC paid rent to use the facility, to which Vest answered, “Yes.”
“Why are we paying to improve a facility we’re renting?” Lucero then asked.
Vest answered that is a question the board needs to discuss.
Handorf told the board the matter could not be discussed because it was not on the agenda.
The board then approved the capital budget, with Lucero abstaining.
* Awarded a design/build contract to D.W. Lusk not to exceed $300,000 for design and construction of a new classroom facility at NATC.
Hatch said the money for the building is coming out of state funds for public safety training.
Lucero cast the only opposing vote.
* Awarded a contract to the Pointe Companies for a remodel of the restroom facilities in the Tiponi building at the NPC Holbrook campus.
* Approved a resolution calling for an election of district governing board members for Districts 1, 2 and 4.
The incumbents are Daniel Peaches, District 1; Prescott Winslow, District 2; and James Matteson, District 4. Peaches is currently serving a term that will expire Dec. 31 of this year. Winslow will be up for election for the remainder of a six-year term, which expires Dec. 31, 2016, and Matteson will be running for a six-year term that will expire Dec. 31, 2020.
* Approved a curriculum change to the Business/Entrepreneurship program.
* Approved a curriculum change to the Medical Assistant program.
* Heard a Classified and Administrative Support Organization (CASO) report.
* Heard a Student Government report.
* Heard a Strategic Planning and Accreditation Steering Committee report.
* Heard a Human Resources report.
* Heard a President’s Report.
By Nick Worth