By Linda Kor
Northland Pioneer College fared well this past fiscal year, according to a budget analysis presented Tuesday by Vice President for Administrative Services Blaine Hatch to the Navajo County Community College District Governing Board.
Last year’s general unrestricted fund was budgeted at $24.3 million, but actual revenues came in at $26.1 million with $22.9 million in expenditures. It was noted by Hatch that a portion of the increase of revenues was due to an unanticipated increase in out of county tuition. In addition, revenues from grants and projects budgeted at $1.8 million increased by 174 percent, coming in at $3.1 million.
Expenditures for salaries and wages were budgeted at $17.2 million, but came in less than anticipated at $16.3 million. Operating expenditures decreased from $6.7 million to $5.8 million, with capital expenditures dropping from the budgeted $248,000 to $237,000.
Following the financial update, Vice President for Learning and Student Services Mark Vest delivered more good news to the board. An enrollment overview stemming from the summer of 2014 through the spring of 2015 showed that enrollment at the college is up by 1.4 percent, making it one of two community colleges in the state to show an increase in enrollment.
“At the state and national level, community college enrollment has dropped significantly since the 2008-09 peak. We don’t have anything final yet, but it appears that nationally enrollment has dropped about three percent and I think it’s fairly safe to say the state will be greater,” stated Vest.
Vest outlined a number of factors that could contribute to a decline in enrollment, such as a decline in high school enrollment and fewer employment opportunities. But NPC has made a concerted effort to create more opportunities for scholarships at the high school level and promotes opportunities that allow students to graduate from high school while earning an associate’s degree from the college at a fraction of the cost of the state’s three universities.
Although Vest noted that NPC was one of two colleges with an increase in enrollment, he refrained from mentioning the other college until the figures could be finalized.
In other business, the board approved the district’s ongoing support of a regional transportation service by renewing the intergovernmental agreement with White Mountain Connection along with a number of other entities, including the City of Show Low, Navajo County, and the towns of Pinetop-Lakeside, Snowflake and Taylor. The agreement is for one year in the amount of $6,036, with two one-year automatic renewals with the same payment ratio. A dissenting vote was cast by Frank Lucero, who stated that he was voting in agreement with the City of Holbrook, which stopped participating in the agreement three years ago after deciding that the benefit to the community was not as great as it was for other areas. Those who voted in favor of the agreement included Chairman Ginnie Handorf, Daniel Peaches, James Matteson and Prescott Winslow.
The board also approved an agreement with the City of Winslow to improve Bales Avenue from Third Street to the driving entrance of the Little Colorado Campus in Winslow, with each entity contributing half of the total cost of the project.
Hatch explained that both the city and the college own a 30’ stretch of the property that runs adjacent to each other, and that the project would greatly improve the appearance and prevent problems stemming from erosion. With the approval of the joint endeavor, the next step will include determining the scope and cost of the project.
The Painted Desert Campus in Holbrook will be getting a replacement roof and two mechanical units on the Nizhoni Learning Center at a cost of $77,850 plus an allowance of $3,000 of reimbursable expenses. The contract, including design, contract documents and construction administration services, has been awarded the DLR Group.
“The warranty on the current roof is expiring and the existing mechanical units were originally installed on the failed learning center located on Hermosa Drive, and were removed and installed on the current facility,” explained Hatch. The date to begin the project has yet to be determined.
In other business, Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology Superintendent Matt Weber discussed NAVIT programs and what challenges are being faced with budget cuts.
“Since 2009 we are down 22 programs that were available to high school students and four at the college level,” stated Weber. While a decrease in enrollment has affected each of the classes, Weber noted that heavy equipment and health related class enrollment have decreased the most.
He explained that there are several factors that have affected enrollment over the years. One is that schools have cut back on busing students to the course sites from twice a day to once a day due to their own budget restraints. He also noted that the Arizona Department of Education made some steep cuts to the program and is likely to make more.
Another big hit came when high school freshmen were cut from the Career and Technical Education program. “The freshmen were cut in 2011, which was a big part of our enrollment at about 40 percent and we’ve just never been back to that kind of funding since. We had used some of those freshman funds to backfill some of the more costly programs,” explained Weber.
He also noted that enrollment isn’t necessarily dropping due to lack of interest by students, but to lack of instructors. “Attrition is the most agreeable way to deal with budget cuts,” said Weber.
Despite concerns with legislative decisions that can result in even greater cuts, Weber remains optimistic about the program and what it offers high school students in the area. “We’re avidly working with our business and industry partners, and I’m cautiously excited about some of the efforts being made,” he concluded.
The board was also informed of a simulated shooting drill conducted Aug. 5 at the White Mountain campus in Show Low. Role players, including students, participated in the realistic training that simulated a shooting event along with the detonation of explosives. The event was used to test the college’s emergency notification system and the Active Alert emergency alerting software system. Staff and faculty also participated in a separate tabletop exercise to practice their response to an emergency situation, and to become more familiar with the NPC emergency response plan and emergency guidelines.