With a $15 million reduction in state aid in the last seven years, Coconino Community College (CCC) is seeking financial help through a budget override.
Scott Talboom, CCC's executive director of institutional advancement, and Jack Hadley, a CCC District Governing Board Member, spoke about the override at the Sept. 26 Williams Rotary Club meeting.
If voters approve the seven-year override, it would generate about $4.5 million per year from property taxes. Based on the average home value in Coconino County of $170,000, residents would pay an additional $4.20 per month or about $50 per year in property taxes if voters approve the override.
The college's district governing board unanimously approved pursuing the override at its June 25 meeting. The override election will take place Nov. 5 from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. People can register to vote until Oct. 7 and request an early mail ballot until Oct. 25.
Hadley said he was unsure of what would happen if the override does not pass, although he assumed it would cause additional cuts across the board.
"You can't run a business on a loss year after year," he said.
Hadley said CCC is dipping into its reserve fund this year, which could last about a 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years. Once the reserve funds are gone, college officials would have to discuss potentially losing some of their programs if voters do not approve the override.
CCC serves more than 10,000 students, offering arts and science courses, career and technical education and workforce training.
In 2007, CCC was getting 23 percent of its budget from state aid. The college now receives 12 percent of its funding from state aid, 45 percent from tuition and fees, 42 percent from property taxes and 1 percent from other sources.
Besides the cut in state funding, property taxes also play a role in CCC's budget shortfall.
CCC's property tax rate has virtually stayed the same since 1991, while enrollment has grown. The current rate is the lowest of all the community colleges in the state, at about $0.36 for every $100 of property value.
"We're getting more students, less money, it's got to come from somewhere," Talboom said.
To cope with these dwindling funding sources, CCC has had to raise tuition every year in the past few years. Tuition at CCC has increased 89 percent since 2007, and is now at $2,760. CCC's tuition is now the highest of any community college in the state.
The college has also reduced staff by 15 percent, cut 20 percent of classes, eliminated 30 percent of programs and closed its Williams campus.
"Raising tuition and cost saving initiatives have worked to a point, but they're maxed out," Talboom said. "If we continue to raise tuition, we're not going to be competitive in the marketplace.
CCC has never had an override in place. The college asked for one in 2006, but the voters did not approve it.
Hadley, who addressed Rotary members not as a board member but as a county resident, said he would happily pay more in property taxes to support the college.
"We can not afford to lose an opportunity for county residents to get a higher education," he said.
CCC officials will put on an open house to answer questions about the override election from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 24 in the Williams High School Annex, 636 S. Seventh St. More information can be found at www.coconino.az.gov/elections.