Coconino Community College is asking voters to raise property taxes to stave off continuing program cuts.
The CCC District Governing Board voted unanimously earlier this year to call a special election on Nov. 5 to seek approval for a tax hike of about $4.5 million dollars a year from 2014 to 2020.
Coconino County homeowners currently pay CCC $46 per year in property taxes for every $100,000 in a home’s valuation. That would jump to $75 per year if the CCC override passes this fall.
CCC officials say the funds are needed to make up for lost state aid amid rising costs.
“We are, at this point, drawing down our reserves,” said Scott Talboom, executive director of institutional advancement at CCC.
Talboom said CCC began experiencing budget shortfalls when the Arizona Legislature began cutting state funds to the college in 1998. Since then, there have been three rounds of cuts, with the biggest coming at the height of the economic downturn.
CCC has lost about $15 million in state aid since 2007. It now accounts for just 12 percent of CCC’s operating revenues, down from 40 percent in 2000.
A citizens’ review panel decided that further tuition raises would not be considerable enough to offset those cuts, Talboom said.
When CCC opened its doors in 1991, it had roughly 1,000 students. It chose a low property tax rate that today remains the lowest in the state, thinking that would bring in enough revenue to help fund the school. Since then, the property tax rate has stayed close to that figure under state law but the student population has expanded to about 10,000 part-time and full-time students.
The district has already taken steps to lower its operating costs in recent years. It slashed $4 million from the budget, reduced staff by 15 percent, eliminated 30 percent of its certificate and degree programs and closed the Williams campus.
CCC has also raised tuition several times over the past decade to bring in more money. Tuition for a full-time student is now at $2,700. That is the highest community college tuition in the state. School officials have not said the CCC override will prevent further tuition hikes.
If the override passes, the $4.5 million a year in additional property tax revenue will go directly into the college’s operating budget. CCC has said $2 million a year will be allocated for instruction purposes. The rest will be divided to fund academic support, student services, institutional support, and operations and maintenance.
“It’ll help us with catching up with maintenance and, of course, keeping our programs running the way they are,” Talboom said.
The CCC District Governing Board has not said what programs might be cut if the override does not pass next month. Talboom said the board is holding off on making that decision until the results of the election are in.
“We will look at our core missions and then we will have to decide what to cut from those core missions,” Talboom said. “We’ll have to decide whether to cut across the board or cut specific programs.”
The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 5 consolidated election was Monday. Early voting begins Thursday, when County election officials start mailing ballots. The last day to request an early ballot by mail will be Oct. 25 and the last day to vote early in person will be Nov. 1.
More information can be found by calling the Elections Office at (928) 679-7860 or toll free at (800) 793-6181.