Yavapai College board OKs 2% property tax levy increase

College Board Member Al Filardo: “It just blows me away that we are asking for additional taxes without a plan. There is no plan.”

College Board Member Al Filardo: “It just blows me away that we are asking for additional taxes without a plan. There is no plan.”

The decision did not come easily.

During a Truth in Taxation meeting held on the Yavapai College Prescott Campus Tuesday, June, 9, the Yavapai College District Governing Board approved a proposed 2 percent property tax levy increase by a 3-2 vote.

Resistance to the tax increase came from several fronts during the session's public hearing.

Board members Deb McCasland and Albert Filardo -- the two who voted against the increase -- did not believe the $825,100 that will come from the additional property tax is needed at this time and that not enough strategic planning on what the money will be used for has been worked out.

"Let's delay it one year," Albert Filardo said. "It just blows me away that we are asking for additional taxes without a plan. There is no plan."

McCasland followed up by stating that the public was circumvented in the decision process and that it does not settle well when the board can simply make executive decisions concerning the funding of capital improvements through initiatives like the property tax levy.

"We did not get (sufficient) citizen input," McCasland said.

The public input that was received came from the Verde Valley Advisory Board Committee (VVABC), created by the college's governing board to serve as an advocacy group to provide advice to the board members based on objective analysis and feedback from Verde Valley communities.

After holding extensive discussions with Verde Valley community members, the committee unanimously voted to oppose the property tax increase.

The committee's primary reasoning was that the Verde Valley communities, which provide a large portion of funding to Yavapai College from sources such as the property tax increase, do not see a fair return of investment from the amount of money drawn from the area.

Vice-Chair for the VVBAC, Bill Regner, says that based on the "limited information provided by the College administration," as much as 40 to 45 percent of the property tax money from the Verde Valley seems to be spent on facilities and programs available in Prescott, Prescott Valley and Chino Valley, which is too large of a percentage to justify, in the committee's opinion.

"It is difficult to support a raise in revenues without assurances that doing so will benefit your region," Regner said.

Yavapai College board member Ray Sigafoos rebutted the attacks on the property tax levy increase by stating the public has access to all of the meeting's discussions either in person or online; the property tax money is necessary; and the funds will be put to good use for expanding the college's services and facilities.

Yavapai College President Penny Wills backed this support for the increase by adding that this 2 percent property tax levy increase is nothing compared to the 44 percent increase the Central Arizona College Governing Board approved this year.

Central Arizona College was able to do this because its governing board had put off raising the property tax levy for many years, causing the 2 percent allowance to stack up-since the allowance rolls over each year.

"We could have done a 10-percent increase, but we didn't; we did 2 percent," Wills said.

In real terms, the average homeowner in Yavapai County, whose home is worth $184,000, will see an increase of $6.73 per year to their family's property tax bill due to the 2 percent increase. 

By Max Efrein, Contributing Reporter

PRESCOTT -- The Yavapai College District Governing Board approved by a 3-2 vote a budget of $83.5 million for the coming fiscal year.

The vote was taken at a budget adoption meeting held before the Board's regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, June 9, on the college's Prescott Campus.

The budget, which is $29,000 (.03%) more than last year's budget, includes a 2-percent increase in the property tax levy for Yavapai County property owners for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2015, according to a press release.

"We are spending the vast majority of our budget on education, and then secondly on economic development and finally on cultural enrichment," said Clint Ewell, Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services for Yavapai College.

Following is the breakdown of how the $83.5 million is allocated:

• $44.1M Operations (the primary way we achieve our goals of education, economic development and cultural enrichment)

• $15.4M Restricted (gifts and grants-primarily Pell grants which pass through the college to our students)

• $4.3M Auxiliary (non-core services such as the bookstore, food service, residence hall, performing arts center, Family Enrichment Center, Regional Economic Development Center, etc.)

• $12.8M Capital (improvement projects, preventive maintenance, FFE [furniture, fixtures and equipment], etc.)

• $6.9M Debt (Revenue Bonds and GO Bonds)

In addition to approving the budget, the Board voted 4-1 to extend the employment contract of YC President Dr. Penny Wills by one year through 2018 and increase her base salary by 1.7 percent for FY16.

Arizona state law permits presidency contracts to be for only three years. To continue her service for more than those initial three years, the Yavapai College District Governing Board must approve adding another year onto her contract every year to maintain a consistent three year agreement.

Wills is the only employee of the board; the rest are volunteers. The Board, therefore, has the power to determine not only her contract, but her salary as well.

For many years following the recession, many of the college's staff and faculty did not get raises, according to Wills.

This year, the staff and faculty received a 3-percent raise, but Wills did not believe that was right for her to have.

"Three percent of my salary versus what an average staff member makes here is different," Wills said. "So what I did was ask for a cost of living increase of 1.7 percent."

This is the adjustment people on Social Security receive every year, according to Ewell.

Wills' largest base salary increase was in 2013 when she received a 5 percent increase while the rest of the staff and faculty received a 3-percent increase, as a special reward for doing her job well, according to Wills.

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