Time To Break Up With Eac Lobbyist

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He promises the world. He inflates your hopes. Then sneaks out with your pretty sister. Time to break up? Most likely.

So we suspect that the Gila Community College board made a mistake last week when it renewed Triadvocate’s $36,000 annual lobbying contract.

The Phoenix-based Triadvocates represents several community college districts in the Legislature, including Eastern Arizona College — with which GCC contracts for its credential.

Board member Tom Loeffler has in the past suggested that represents a conflict of interest, since GCC’s interests as a provisional community college may conflict with the plans of regular community colleges — who get far more state support.

Not to worry, insisted Triadvocates: We can represent GCC’s interests too.

So last year, Triadvocates set to work to help state Sen. Sylvia Allen pass two bills crucial to the future of GCC. One bill opens the door to independence. The second bill sought to ensure GCC gets its fair share of workforce development money all other districts already get to develop vocational programs.

How did that work out?

The Legislature did approve a path to independence — but only after eliminating GCC’s eligibility for extra funding, which already goes to the state’s other rural community colleges. Granted, maybe there was not much Triadvocates could have done about that. Sen. Allen didn’t even try to win equal treatment for GCC, knowing the cash-strapped Legislature would balk.

However, the Legislature also swindled GCC on the second bill — which would have provided workforce development funding. GCC should have gotten $280,000. Instead, the final bill limited vocational funding to $80,000 — mostly to placate the concerns of other community colleges, including clients of Triadvocates.

Loeffler, who was intimately involved in the struggle to win passage of the bills, says that Triadvocates sold out GCC, perhaps to placate other clients. Sen. Allen suggests that the main problem lay with House lawmakers, who insisted on the blatantly unfair treatment to satisfy community colleges in their districts.

Either way, Triadvocates proved at best ineffectual — and at worst a hindrance to winning fair treatment for GCC. So maybe it’s time to get a new boyfriend.

GCC must demand clear reports

The Gila Community College board has finally come to grips with the key point: How to get the budget information it needs to fulfill its obligation to the taxpayers who fund the district.

The board has tolerated a woeful lack of information about its finances for far too long. We’re delighted that the board members finally seem determined to take charge, despite the district’s “provisional status.”

Currently, Gila Community College must contract with Eastern Arizona College for its credential. As a result, not only must GCC pay a 25 percent overhead charge on everything it spends — the board also has little real understanding of its own budget. EAC provides the district with a monthly tally of expenditures, but that report comes in a format that would give an accountant seizures. The board members readily confessed last week that they can’t make heads nor tails of the monthly report.

Board members agreed they need much better information, but wondered whether GCC can afford to hire a financial director in the face of its ongoing financial crisis.

Good points all around. So here’s an idea.

Why not insist that Eastern Arizona College provide comprehensible, timely budget information to its employer — the GCC board and the taxpayers who put up the bulk of that money?

The GCC board has tolerated fragmented, misleading, dated budget information for far too long.

So we applaud the board’s decision to fulfill its obligation to the taxpayers of Gila County.

The GCC board should at minimum insist on a clear monthly summary of actual and projected revenues and expenditures. The Town of Payson several years ago instituted on such a reporting system, which has kept the budget on track through the depths of the recession. If EAC can’t or won’t provide such a report, then it’s time for GCC to seek another college willing to provide the credentialing services GCC still needs due to its stepchild status under state law. It’s an insult to leave the board in the dark, coupled with the injury of state funding formulas that discriminate against Gila County taxpayers.

After years of deadlock and squabbling, the GCC board last week took an important step forward by electing a new, consensus president and engaging in a frank and open discussion of this most aggravating of problems.

Hopefully, the board will insist on clear answers and good information.

The taxpayers footing the bill deserve no less.

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