Eac's Proposed Budget Flunks Payson Test

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Eastern Arizona College presented its transition plan and budget to the truncated Gila County Community Board of Governors Monday during a special session.

The board also voted on personnel changes in the upper ranks of Gila Community College's administration.

"Eastern (Arizona College) is determined and committed to provide excellent educational offerings," Brent McEuen, EAC's executive vice president said to audiences in Globe and Payson. "We want to do so in a professional manner, we want to do so in a cost-effective manner. We're looking forward to working for you and working hard for you."

McEuen presented his proposed budget presentation Monday, broadcast via television from Globe to Payson.

"The information for expenditures as well as enrollment will be available on demand. If you want it on a daily basis, you'll be able to get it," McEuen said.

McEuen lauded EAC's budget for its pluses like increased enrollment and spending limits, and an unbeknownst fourth satellite site in Hayden/ Winkelman, but failed to mention $2.7 million in tax and state aid income.

"What seems to be missing from revenues is the money that comes into the district from property taxes," board member, Larry Stephenson of Payson said. "I assume that it's factored in here somewhere."

"That is correct," McEuen said. "It's income, but it's not income for Eastern."

"No, but it is revenue still for the college," Stephenson said.

"That's correct," McEuen answered.

"I think we need some of that reflected in an overview budget," Stephenson said. "Without knowing what your revenues are, it's hard to get exact your expenditures. One follows, not leads."

McEuen's presentation continued by tacking on $1 million to GCC's current $2.8 million annual expenditures. Because the college's spending limits, set by the Auditor General's Office, fall far below EAC's proposed $3.8 million bottom line, McEuen and other EAC officials met with the Economic Estimate Commission Thursday. EAC managed to increase the "expenditure limitation in excess of the proposed budget allowance," McEuen said.

The problem is, Stephenson wasn't at the meeting. In fact, he said, he was never contacted about the convoy to Phoenix, and was therefore unable to represent the will of northern Gila County taxpayers.

And now, Graham County, as sponsor of GCC's provisional community college district, can spend more of Gila County's money in the south. According to EAC's proposed budget, Globe is slated to receive more than $1 million a year to run the Gila Pueblo Campus.

If that dollar amount seems hefty, consider this: The Gila Pueblo campus constitutes only 30 percent of GCC's enrollment. From tallies presented at a September 2004 board of governor's meeting, the Payson campus accounts for more than 50 percent of the college's head count while San Carlos makes up the remaining 20.

At first glance, the budget showed a greater outflow of cash from Payson to accommodate its bigger enrollment. But look again.

EAC tried to obscure nearly $500,000 of administrative costs to run the campus in Globe by hiding the money in an unrelated expense column. By doing this, EAC gave the illusion that more cash would be spent in Payson.

Stephenson, noting the reporting inconsistencies, asked for clarification.

"It looks like we don't have an apples to apples comparison,'' Stephenson said.

McEuen failed to address Stephenson's concerns, and instead offered to provide the board with an updated budget.

"We will revise those sheets," McEuen said, "so they're more comparable and you can see exactly what's being spent at each campus."

The transition plan

In addition to the proposed budget, Margo Bracamonte, former EAC dean-cum-EAC consultant, outlined the college's two-month transition plan, which includes publicity, open houses, new job openings and an inventory of GCC's property when Pima Community College bows out of Payson July 29.

"We will be sending letters to all Pima students on how to make smooth transition with credits and financial aid," Bracamonte said. "I think it's going quite well. We just got started last week."

To get the ball rolling sooner, GCC president, Dr. Barbara Ganz has been put on paid administrative leave until her contract ends June 30.

Ganz could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, Dr. Stephen Cullen, who holds a doctorate from Capella University, an online degree-granting program, will oversee Ganz' administrative duties until the EAC transition is complete. Cullen is currently employed as dean of the Gila Pueblo campus in Globe.

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