Tue, June 18

Yavapai College board approves 2.04% tax increase, 2012-13 budget

The Yavapai County Community College District Governing Board unanimously approved a 2.04 percent increase in primary property taxes on Tuesday after a public hearing at which eight people urged the board to look at other areas to make cuts before raising taxes.

The increase adds $803,100 to current property tax revenue of $39,428,500 and will be used for deferred and preventative maintenance programs for college buildings and infrastructure, said Dr. Clint Ewell, vice president of finance for Yavapai College.

"The college district hired an independent auditor who reviewed the buildings we own throughout the district," Ewell said. "Although the buildings are in good condition now, they are recommending that we will need to invest more money to keep those buildings and infrastructure up to snuff."

The increase will raise taxes $3.34 from $163.91 to $167.25 for a home with an assessed value of $100,000, Ewell said. Ewell did not provide figures for commercial properties at the meeting, or in a call after the meeting.

About $51.1 million of the $69.5 million general obligation bond for the Yavapai County Community College District that voters passed on Nov. 7, 2000, was used to construct buildings and renovate those suffering from deferred maintenance on the Prescott campus.

"I'm being taxed to death," said Keith Rosewitz, who said he sold his business and invested heavily in local real estate. "I can see you're proud of your cuts, but it's not enough."

Rosewitz said he doen't know where he'll get another $300 to $600 to pay these taxes since he can't raise rents on his tenants or they'll leave.

Board member Herald Harrington said he didn't particularly want to pay more taxes himself, and as a small businessman who needs to make payroll every two weeks, he knows it's hard.

"I'm not real fond of this either, but the fact of the matter is I feel I have a responsibility to make sure this college stands on what we do, which is teach people things to make their lives better, and we have to figure out a way to do that," Harrington said. "The big problem we're fighting is that the State of Arizona has transferred responsibility for the community college system in total to the local tax base. We had to change the way we do business."

When the state reduced its support by $3.5 million last year, the college did not ask for an increase in the tax levy then, but made other cuts in staff, athletics and other programs, Ewell said.

Michael Wolf, a local businessman and graduate of the Class of '89, suggested the board cut inefficiencies like the art gallery, other sports programs, and the weight room, before going to the public for money.

"I'm an avid and strong supporter of community colleges; however, as a taxpayer, I have not seen a justification for this increase," said Dan Chacon. "All I have seen from the college as possible solutions are to pass the cost on to students and the taxpayers."

Ray Waguespack reminded the board that retirees on fixed incomes have no recourse when taxes rise and he objected to the lack of notice.

"It was in the paper. I'm sure you've done it legally, but that is a minimum," said Waguespack, who noted he and his wife have taken classes at the college. "The taxpayers haven't been notified and most of them won't find out about this 2 percent until they get it in their tax bill, and I don't think that's right."

Board member Dr. Patricia McCarver said she thought it was unfortunate people were not finding this information.

"For the past three or four months the budget has been on the agenda and drafts have been presented and discussed, including the tax increase," McCarver said.