The question was raised recently in a Roundup article dealing with who pays for our local community college. The article was reporting on a recent Gila Community College Independence Task Force meeting held in Payson. The first line indicated independence could cost taxpayers.
Well, let me point out that Gila taxpayers already pay dearly for the college.
A portion of our property taxes goes for support of the college as well as our state tax dollars. And when you include tuition, the three pots of money pay for and now support the college completely. So how does an independent college help the taxpayer? Right now the citizens of Gila County have no say in how their tax money is spent by the college. In fact, their state taxes go to fund community colleges in other counties, but their own college is not eligible for the same state money.
What would independence do for the taxpayer and the local college? First of all, if we had an independent college district, we would have approximately 1.4 to 1.6 million more dollars to spend on our own college and it would not cost Gila taxpayers 1 cent more. We could do a lot with a million plus more.
Granted, there would be additional personnel needed to run our own college, but those would be our own employees and would keep that money in our county. Currently, for example, we pay Eastern Arizona College (EAC) to handle our college finances. We also pay EAC 25 percent over and above their actual cost for this service. If we had our own people doing our finances, we would not be paying for the actual cost for such to EAC plus the 25 percent overhead. Bottom line, we could employ several needed positions with that extra million plus without raising any taxes. We would also be eligible for some state funds not currently available to us.
I believe the Roundup has jumped the gun on this. They, like others, have been trying to get accurate cost numbers but have so far been unsuccessful. We first must determine the real cost to run our own community college. Until we all look at these numbers and determine how much it will cost compared to what we already are paying, it is premature to state that this plan could cost taxpayers more.
Not having a good education and a good local education system, controlled by local citizens, could cost a lot more.
With Senator Allen at the head, this task force will develop workable legislation to provide a path to independence as well as a funding formula based on real numbers and available partnerships.