Gcc’S Budget Fuddle Merits New Contract

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So what’s it like writing about Gila Community College’s budget? Like basing your diet plan on a funhouse mirror. Like getting drunk and playing darts blindfolded.

You’re thinking we’re exaggerating for effect.

Well. Maybe. But then study today’s front-page story about the latest sit down for tea with the Mad Hatter —played in this case by administrators from Eastern Arizona College, which administers GCC and charges a stiff 25 percent overhead for the uncertain services rendered.

Back when the befuddled Gila Community College Board was trying to come up with this year’s budget, EAC projected a $2 million deficit. That frightened the board into the blind approval of two different tuition increases totaling 45 percent — the highest in the state.

Next thing we knew, the projected deficit had mysteriously shrunk to $750,000. Still very scary — but less than the $950,000 contingency fund. EAC still offered no clear presentation of those estimates to the board, which gulped and accepted a big tuition hike and the painful furlough of college employees.

Now comes the fine print. The huge tuition increase coupled with elimination of free tuition for seniors taking one or two classes resulted in an awful 26 percent drop in full-time enrollment, according to figures presented at this week’s board meeting.

Moreover, as near as we can make out, the district actually lost money because of the giant tuition jump. EAC’s administrators predicted a 20 percent enrollment drop and a $220,000 jump in tuition revenue. Instead, total tuition revenue dropped by $51,000. The loss of state payments as a result of the enrollment drop will make the loss even worse.

And yet GCC Board President Bob Ashford reported that the $750,000 deficit has turned into a $50,000 surplus — despite the decline in tuition revenue.

What the heck’s going on here?

Clearly, the GCC board must immediately reopen contract negotiations with EAC. If the board doesn’t make that request by the end of April, it can’t request any changes at all for two full years.

The board will apparently hold a special session in the next two weeks to discuss the impact of the tuition increase. That offers the perfect moment to seek a change in the contract terms. Of course, we would hope that any such discussion would require EAC to justify the absurd, 25 percent overhead charge. But even if that remains unchanged, the GCC board must insist on much better accounting, more control over programs and staff and far more transparency and cooperation from EAC.

Right now, EAC treats the GCC board like someone else’s child and the GCC budget like its own private piggy bank. And all the GCC board seems brave enough to do is to occasionally ask for a hall pass to visit the boy’s room.

Some give up, some give love

Grief can swallow you up. Despair can seep into your heart. But love can bear you up. But what happens when the one you love most is gone — and grief opens its dark maw?

Some, give up. But then, some give love.

That’s what Jack and Barbara Gooch did, as they struggled to make some sense of the terrible loss of their granddaughter, Kaitie, to cerebral palsy.

Deep in that darkness, they went into her room and confronted the closet full of clothes.

And then because love is imperishable and the human heart winged, they determined to make some small sense of that loss by giving Kaitie’s clothes to someone in need.

Jack said the sight of her pretty clothes broke his heart — but he could not stand to let them go to waste.

For many people, that would have been enough — and hard enough — to box her things and take them somewhere.

But Jack and Barbara wanted to do more, needed to do more. So they started Kaitie’s Closet and set about collecting clothes and shoes they could give to children in need — a gift from Kaitie, who wasn’t given enough time to do it herself.

They collected 10 huge bags of clothes in just a week. Now they have collection boxes at the elementary schools, Scoops, Beeline Business Equipment, Payson Physical Therapy, Alltel, Rim Country Middle School, Tiny’s Restaurant and their own home on Corral Drive.

If you want to donate — or help — you can call them at (928) 468-1036.

Go ahead — give Jack and Barbara a hand. Grief cannot be banished — but it can be shared and so lessened.

And while you can waste clothes — love is never wasted.

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