Gila College Board Focuses On Finances

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Working to clear up its murky finances, the Gila Community College (GCC) Board voted not to impose course fees but did agree to assign an existing employee to serve as finance director.

The board voted not to impose the course fees partly to balance student costs between the Globe and Payson campuses. Moreover, an audit by the state suggested the lack of a financial director exposed GCC to gross accounting deficiencies.

In the fall, Senior Dean Stephen Cullen had requested the board vote in a fee of $50 for any class that required additional supplies such as ceramics or jewelry. Cullen reported that according to his research, each campus paid thousands of dollars in additional costs to cover art supplies.

At its last meeting in January, the board discussed adding a $10 fee instead of $50, but decided to reserve a vote until it had more information.

Seeking to finalize the debate, President Larry Stephenson analyzed per-student spending on supplies at the Payson versus the Globe campus. He reported that Payson spends about $25 per student, while Globe spends $75.

“The welding class (in Globe) has a significant impact,” said Cullen explaining the difference.

The board essentially put off any change in the fees until it can delve into the budget and figure out why the college spends so much more per student on subsidizing supplies on the Globe campus.

Tom Loeffler reminded the board that the nursing students in Payson pay a hefty fee for supplies — often more than hundreds of dollars per class. Cullen felt art students should pay for their own supplies, instead of paying a fee and having the college provide the materials. The board agreed, voting to reverse any art course fees.

However, the board also asked the administration to assure that all art courses had sufficient supplies to start the class. The board felt students would need to supply any additional materials to enhance a course such as extra clay or jewelry supplies.

“We need to put this back onto instructors,” said Robert Ashford.

“Instructors need to have students buy products.”

Stephenson still hopes to understand the disparity in spending between the two campuses, but until budgets can adequately be analyzed, the financial picture remains fuzzy.

“We all kind of agreed we are not real clear about finances,” said Loeffler as he opened the topic of hiring a finance director.

“We should have somebody working on a five-year business plan, policies and internal controls.”

At the January meeting, Loeffler had suggested the district hire a finance director to unravel the monthly reports sent by Eastern Arizona College (EAC) to GCC.

Each month, GCC sends 95 percent of its income to EAC as part of an accreditation contract. EAC pays for all staff and maintenance, charging a 25 percent overhead fee. The state audit proved EAC does not follow standard accounting procedures, which places GCC at a financial disadvantage. At no time does the GCC board know exactly how much they have to plan a budget or discuss fees or make other financial decisions.

Reminding the board that GCC staff has been forced to take regularly scheduled furlough days for the last four years, Ashford suggested asking a current full-time employee to prepare reports for the board.

“She (Susan Gallow a former chief financial officer for a local casino) can create a report and give us what we need in the next month prior to spending money on a new position,” said Ashford.

The board agreed.

Said Stephenson, “My intent is to bring to the next board meeting a regular financial report to get out of the furlough hole we’ve got ourselves into.”

Council to consider drug law

A new law to ban the sale of designer synthetic drugs and a plan to finally extend Mud Springs Road top the Thursday Payson Town Council agenda.

The town council, starting at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, hopes to adopt a law that keys on the “intent” of merchants who sell currently legal, synthetic drugs like spice and potpourri as a way to ban sales in the town limits. The drugs use a mix of components, including a synthetic version of the active ingredient in marijuana, to get around existing drug laws. Most have a “not for human consumption” label.

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