College Budget Provokes Debate

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The Gila Community College (GCC) board voted to increase its property tax rate in order to balance its budget, but a comment from a taxpayer spurred one board member to vote no.

Board member Larry Stephen­son neither voted to support the 2 percent increase in the tax rate, nor the budget as submitted.

“In the past, I have voted for increases in property taxes believing in GCC, but we are at a point where we have young people subsidizing seniors, and I cannot in good conscience support the tax increase,” he said in response to a recent board decision to raise tuition rates while still offering free classes to seniors.

Later in the meeting, Steph­enson also voted against the 2014-15 budget.

Bolstering Stephenson’s vote, a member of the Star Valley community, Harold Snyder, protested increasing the tax rate.

“I come before you this morning to state that your contemplated decision to increase the taxation burden on a community of mainly senior citizens and lower income families is fiscally irresponsible,” said Snyder.

He said since moving to Star Valley in 2005, the property taxes on his modest home have in­creased from $1,200 to currently $1,900.

“Laudable as it seems to give free college tuition to seniors versus a tax increase, (it) is in the opinion of seniors not only unnecessary, (but) of no benefit to the future of the community and a bit ridiculous,” said Snyder.

Stephenson agreed, stating many times at past meetings that he opposes full-time students subsidizing part-time students, everyone subsidizing seniors and young people shouldering the load for an increasingly expensive education.

Board member John Zilisch voted for the tax increase and the budget, but he said this will be the last time he does so.

“I would like to tell you up front I will vote in favor, because the (tax) amount amounts to less than $2 per year,” he said of the increase in the property tax, “however, I do want to express my disappointment ... (with) the carryover in the budget ... every year we have a carryover, I don’t see a reason for increasing the property tax.”

Zilisch referred to the fact that every year, GCC has enough at the end of the year to move the reserve into the current year’s budget to balance it. This year, GCC will add about a half a million from reserve funds to round out the budget.

Stephenson reminded the board that the state requires the college to create and vote on a budget that will balance at the end of the year to avoid any concerns over mismanagement of funds.

The budget passed with a 3 to 1 vote, with board member Armida Bittner absent.

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