Clarifying College Tuition Payments

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Editor:

I am writing to clarify misinformation included in previous Payson Roundup articles. These quoted misunderstandings on the part of Mr. Lionel Martinez do not lend themselves toward a resolution for Gila County Community College.

The Treasurer's office did not arbitrarily decide to "scoop up" funds from Gila County. The Treasurer's office is: (1) not a rule-making body; (2) a bank which acts upon instructions from rule-making bodies and agencies.

The Treasurer's office has no statutory authority to: (1) determine which county makes out-of-county payments and: (2) to determine the dollar amount of those payments. Under ARS 15-469(D) the statutory authority to make those decisions rested, originally, with the State Board for Community Colleges and currently with Joint Legislative Budget Committee, referred to as JLBC.

The State Board for Community Colleges calculated Gila's out of county reimbursement for FY 2004 to be $1,047,423." The withholdings occurred because the Treasurer's Office was instructed to do so. Those instructions came from an agency with the statutory duty and authority to make such determinations.

It is clear that ARS 15-469(D): (a) names JLBC as the agency with current statutory authority to determine out-of-county payments and; (b) JLBC is tasked by law to calculate and inform counties of the future payments.

I understand how the frustration felt by Mr. Martinez can arise from a lack of understanding of the legal processes that must be followed to safeguard the funds of the taxpayers. However, I assure the citizens of Gila County that the State Treasurer's Office does not act unilaterally or capriciously. We act in accordance to instructions provided by the laws of the State of Arizona.

Mr. Martinez should have conferred with the Gila County Manager and this office before making defamatory comments in the press towards the State Treasurer. Gila County Manager John Nelson was contacted on Monday Aug. 2, 2004 by my staff to work through the steps so Gila County Community College can move forward. Mr. Nelson was very professional and understanding of the processes that are under way.

My staff is working with the Attorney General's Office to return the funds to Gila County as quickly as possible. If there are further inquiries, I encourage Gila County residents to contact Mr. John Nelson at Gila County or my office at (602) 542-5815.

David A. Petersen, Arizona State Treasurer

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