Friction among Gila County Community College board members regarding the Globe campus' cosmetology program resulted in what the Payson campus' dean called the most contentious meeting since her arrival.
The modular building proposed to hold the program, its location, timeline, and whether to rent or buy divided board members.
"I understand the topic of a modular building is basically a sore spot with everyone in this room -- and my colleagues in Payson -- but I see no other way to move forward with this program," said Senior Dean Stephen Cullen. The meeting was held via interactive television.
Through a proposed partnership with a vocational school, each entity would pay $750 monthly, with the option to buy the facility for an extra $10,000 at the end of five years.
Factoring in $17,000 to transport the building to Globe and set it up, the college could purchase the building for $72,000.
Cullen said the 2,500-square-foot building is worth $107,000, making the buy a bargain. Later during the discussion, he mentioned that the building was used. New, it would cost $196,000, he said.
That spurred questions of what condition the unit was in.
"I'd like to know more about the used unit we're getting," said board member Don Crowley, in Payson.
"I am not against modular if it makes financial sense. I would like to see far more information," Crowley said.
"Let's not make a back-of-the-envelope decision." Board member Larry Stephenson, also in Payson, said the board should delay such long-term decisions until the program proves popular.
"I think we ought to rent before we buy," he said, adding that the agreement with the vocational school should be in writing.
Cullen said he wants to start the program in August. There's demonstrated interest, he said, and the unit could double as a regular classroom at night.
"I'm looking at enrollment and for us to each get to where we want to be as a community college -- this building could spike that," Cullen said. "Brick and mortar is nice if you can afford it."
By contrast, the cosmetology program brewing in Payson is proceeding more leisurely. Dean Pamela Butterfield is investigating available buildings. Finding one with enough parking is emerging as an issue, she said.
The program's financial feasibility is still under examination, and Butterfield said it's not a sure deal. If the program did start, Butterfield aims for August 2009.
Prior to the modular unit discussion, the board passed its fiscal year 2008-2009 budget with little fanfare.
A 2 percent tax increase was approved -- resulting in an extra $1.05 on a $100,000 home per year -- which Stephenson said was routine. Two percent is the maximum allowed by law. This year's increase will result in an extra $56,297 for the college.
The board approved a $5.5 million budget, almost 8 percent higher than last year's $5.1 million budget.
State appropriated money jumped 19 percent, from last year's $620,500 to this year's $740,200. Thriving student enrollment attributed to that increase, said Tim Curtis, chief business officer for Eastern Arizona College. EAC is affiliated with GCCC.
Even with more money available, general fund spending per student will drop by $13. "It takes so much to educate one student. It doesn't necessarily take double to educate two students," Curtis said.
GCCC's enrollment has tripled in the last three years. Better programs have helped enlist new students, Curtis said.
A $200,000 grant received from the United States Department of Education will help fund the college's nursing program, which Cullen called a "banner" program.