Proposition 400 is one of those emotional issues that takes on a life larger than it deserves. Simply put, the ballot measure would create a provisional community college district in Gila County.
Creating a provisional district is really the only choice we have, since the county is one of four in the state without enough population or valuation to have a full-blown district.
The advantages of creating a provisional district are simple:
Passage of Prop. 400 will save Gila County $1 million per year which is currently paid to Maricopa, Pima, Graham and other counties in the form of out-of-county tuition.
"Whenever our residents choose to attend a community college in another county, Gila County taxpayer dollars are sent to that county in the form of out-of-county tuition," said Barbara Ganz, provost of Gila County Community College Programs. "Once we create our own district, we no longer have to pay this fee for our students to go to another county."
Passage of Prop. 400 will create a five-member local board that gives us local control of our own college programs. Right now, all we can have is an advisory board that makes suggestions to the district we are contracting with for community college services.
Those opposed to Prop. 400 include the Taxpayors Against Provisional College District out of Globe (the misspelling of "taxpayors" is theirs). They contend that a provisional district is an invitation to higher taxes, and that required ballot language establishing a maximum tax level will only encourage county officials to levy that maximum.
Some local opponents also argue that Gila County will not be able to operate the Payson and Globe campuses and the Hayden/Winkelman and San Carlos education centers for the amount of money it thinks it can. When that becomes apparent, they argue, taxes will inevitably go up.
Those are the issues. Unfortunately, the decision to drop Eastern Arizona College in favor of Pima Community College has became entangled in the debate especially in Globe where locals seem to perceive the loss of EAC as a loss of control to Payson where Ganz is based. But even if Gila County was still contracting with EAC, Prop. 400 would be on the ballot.
Mistrust of county supervisors also has been thrown into the mix. But the creation of an elected community college board will actually take the money decisions regarding our community college out of the hands of the supervisors.
We believe it's time to look at the facts and leave emotions out of it. The partnership with Pima Community College will take time to reach its full potential, but one thing is for sure Eastern Arizona College is history, and it's time to move on.
We also believe that numbers can be skewed to prove almost anything you want. Whether taxes go up remains to be seen, but residents have the ultimate veto if they do at the ballot box.
A "Yes" vote on Prop. 400 is a vote for learning and for the future.