Feb 042015

By Naomi Hatch

Northland Pioneer College (NPC) President Dr. Jeanne Swarthout held her second Listening/Idea Session at the Silver Creek Campus in Snowflake on Jan. 29.

Word spread in the Snowflake/Taylor community that NPC was considering changes to the Silver Creek Campus, including closing the library. Citizens went into action to do what they could, especially to keep the library, which seems to be one of their biggest concerns.

Many citizens attended the Navajo County Community College District Governing Board meeting held Jan. 20, and the first question and answer session Swarthout held Jan. 21.

The second such session began with Swarthout explaining expenditure limits.

“Tax and expenditure limits (TELs) are laws or constitutional provisions that restrict the level or growth of government revenues or expenditures. Most limits are defined in terms of a maximum level or rate of increase that is tied to one or more economic measures, such as personal income, population or inflation. A TEL was in place in 30 states in 2009. Most were adopted during the tax revolt period of the late 1970s or during the 1990s. Arizona has a TEL, adopted in the late 1970s, that limits state government appropriations to a percentage of the state’s personal income,” according to Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business Report from the Office of the University Economist, which was updated on March 3, 2011.

“Expenditure limits are based on a formula based on where we were in 1980,” explained Swarthout, noting that at that time the college had existed for only five to six years. “The formula assumes that you will always grow in the number of students.” She further noted that none of the junior colleges are growing, they have all taken enrollment hits, not just in the state of Arizona, but in the country.

Swarthout explained that each year student numbers are estimated in order to make a budget. There currently is a bill in the legislature, True Up, that will require an estimate, so the concern is that expenditure limits could change mid-year.

“We need to stop this bill,” said Swarthout. “They did the right thing at that time,” but said it has to be fixed for the long term.

“Was the thought ever to get rid of the library?” asked Charlotte Hatch, executive director of the Snowflake-Taylor Chamber of Commerce, noting that there have been rumors, but what has been proposed is not clear.

Swarthout said that she “put a concept forward, it wasn’t a proposal,” but probably the most significant effect to the Silver Creek campus would be the loss of the library, because it has always had distance classes and will continue those. Allied Health, the Medical Assistant program will remain in Snowflake.

“If you take this library, you’ll destroy the college,” said Dennis Roshay.

“I was at that board meeting and did speak, and at the end of the meeting she (Board Chairman Ginny Handorf) basically said go to your local library. She has no understanding that that doesn’t meet the needs,” said Beth Johnson.

Concern was expressed that no board members have attended the listening/idea sessions.

Due to that concern, Chamber President Patty Matyas asked, “What about inviting the board to these meetings?”

Swarthout assured those present that she sent a summary of comments from the last meeting to the board. “The board is taking a deep breath, processing it,” she said.

The next Listening/Idea Session is scheduled at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 4, at the Silver Creek Campus. Nine more are scheduled there, including on Feb. 12, 19 and 26, March 4, 11, 18 and 25, and April 1 and 8. All begin at 5 p.m.

Swarthout asked that everyone be respectful of the open meeting law and not email comments directly to the board, but rather to lisajayne@npc.edu.