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Sat, Feb. 22

Yavapai College board OKs property tax hike

The Yavapai College District Governing Board Tuesday afternoon unanimously, by roll-call vote, approved a 2 percent primary property tax rate increase - the third-lowest rate in a decade.

The governing board increased the primary property tax from $1.1250 to $1.2046 per $100 of assessed valuation.

Vice President of Administrative Services Clint Ewell said state law allows for a 2 percent primary property tax increase. He said the increase would generate an additional $1 million in revenue. Half of that money would come from new construction and the other half from existing properties.

During the Truth in Taxation public hearing, community member Bill Warren said, "The board is in a unique position. It represents the people, and the taxpayers are hurting. Homes are being lost. Taxpayers cannot afford more burden."

Warren asked the board to look for areas where the college could save money before increasing the property tax.

Burt King retired to the Prescott area in 1998. The tax on his home has increased to $7,000. He said that 47 percent - $3,300 - of his property tax goes toward education.

"There are 33 families on 100 acres in our community. As far as I know, only three of them have children and none attend Yavapai College," King said. "I would like the board to think about the macro-position people are in. Taxpayers cannot continue to absorb massive increases."

Yavapai College President Dr. James Horton explained that during the past 10 years the state has reduced its funding to the college by 50 percent.

According to budget figures, Yavapai College budgeted $4,523,974 from the state for fiscal year 2009-10. The anticipated state revenue for 2010-11 is $4,196,000, a decrease of $327,974 (7.2 percent).

Figures presented by Ewell show that the inflation-adjusted state appropriation per full-time student at Yavapai College decreased from $2,079 in 2000 to $1,097 in 2009. The national state subsidy average for two-year and four-year colleges was about $8,000 per full-time student in 2009.

Arizona universities received about $7,000 per full-time student in 2009.

Horton said the state asked Yavapai College to double its nursing program.

"We did, and now the funding from the state and the Department of Commerce is gone. It costs the college $37,000 per nursing student," Horton said.

As for cost-cutting efforts, Horton anticipates saving about $250,000 annually through the outsourcing of the school's marketing and public relations department. Additional savings measures include a reduction in staff members, specifically part-time employees, and the in-house installation of online registration software.

"We have added faculty but only to support programs such as business and manufacturing," Horton said.

"I am very sensitive to this. I don't like increases. But I anticipate a continued drop in federal and state money. I think we will continue to look at cuts."

Governing Board Secretary Herald Harrington said the school budget is a "consistent balancing act. No one likes the situation we are in. The state has consistently transferred the cost of community colleges to local communities."

Governing board member Charles Leon said without the increased tax levy, costs would have to be passed on to students.

In March, the governing board approved a $4 per credit hour tuition increase, a 15 percent increase in dorm fees, a 5 percent increase in meal plan fees and an out-of-state tuition increase consistent with increases in general tuition.

The board's action March 9 increased Yavapai College's tuition from $58 per credit hour to $62 per credit hour. A student enrolled in the maximum 18 hours per semester would pay an additional $72 per semester.

"I feel it is important to continue the high level of service this college provides to students from all over the country," Leon said. "I can honestly say that the administration is looking at all the nooks and crannies to find places to save money."

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