Both Flagstaff Unified School District and Coconino Community College sought property tax overrides in this month’s election. While the FUSD Prop 424 override passed, CCC’s Prop 417 did not, leaving many county residents wondering why.
According to the Statement of Votes Cast, which was released November 15, Prop 417 was largely supported by the city at about 53 percent approval, but lacked similar support in areas outside Flagstaff. In the rest of the county, only about 34 percent of voters approved the proposition, with some precincts’ approval at as little as 11 percent. In one precinct, the proposition even received zero percent approval, though that precinct has very few residents and only 20 registered voters, only seven of whom cast ballots.
Although the proposition did not pass in this election, CCC administrators are already seeking other sources of sustainable funding to expand existing programs, like the veterans program, while also funding in-demand trainings like automotive, welding and plumbing.
“We will continue to look for innovative funding,” CCC Preisdent Colleen Smith said. “We will continue to work hard to meet the needs of our community – the entire county.”
The college plans to reach out to voters through focus groups and surveys to determine why they voted against Prop 417. For now, though, it seems a county-wide lack of knowledge could be to blame.
“We do cover the entire county and it’s a large county, so getting that message out to all the citizens of the county is challenging sometimes,” Ali Applin, CCC's Community Engagement Executive in Residence, said.
As a leading local institution for training firefighters, nurses, emergency medical technicians and other first responders, Smith said CCC provides the basic infrastructure of the community.
The secondary property tax has existed since 1999 in order to build the Lone Tree campus; the override would have allowed a seven-year extension of the tax to fund new certificate and training programs. The lack of this funding going forward will not affect other areas, including employment at the college.
“There are programs [that the community had requested] that we will not be able to start at this point, but we are not losing positions,” Smith said.
Lack of funding is the true issue plaguing CCC and community colleges throughout Arizona, Smith said.
“It’s the underfunding that impacts the college more than the idea that one ballot initiative passed or didn’t pass,” she said.
CCC’s current tax rate, $0.47, falls far below the state average of $1.81. As the second largest county by area in the contiguous United States, Coconino County lacks the funding needed to support a community its size. Its current funding is significantly disproportionate to its needs, as noted by CCC faculty.
“Our college and our district officials are very good stewards of public money and we work very hard to make do with the means we have,” Smith said. “Quite a few people do the jobs of two or three people because we are small and underfunded.”
Nevertheless, the college will carry on as best it can to provide for students with optimism.
“We’re not losing hope,” Applin said. “[The college is] a great resource. We are excited about moving forward.”
Smith added, “I’d like to thank all the partners and champions because we have a lot of people working hard to support the college and make sure the college moves forward…It’s [always] a great day to be at CCC.”