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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : latest news : local August 19, 2014

2/20/2014 2:41:00 PM
Stakeholders voice concerns over Yavapai College resource equality
Community leaders from across the Verde Valley attended the first public meeting organized by former Yavapai College governing board member Robert Oliphant and Ruth Wicks to explore ways to better serve educational needs on the eastern side of Mingus Mountain. VVN/Yvonne Gonzalez
Community leaders from across the Verde Valley attended the first public meeting organized by former Yavapai College governing board member Robert Oliphant and Ruth Wicks to explore ways to better serve educational needs on the eastern side of Mingus Mountain. VVN/Yvonne Gonzalez

Yvonne Gonzalez
Staff Reporter

COTTONWOOD - Community leaders held their first public meeting Wednesday to discuss how Yavapai College can distribute its resources equitably between the east and west halves of the county.

Robert Oliphant, who worked with Ruth Wicks to organize the meeting, resigned from the board in January after being the only member to vote against giving preliminary approval to a new campus master plan that allocates more than 80 percent of about $100 million to Prescott-area campuses.

"Either the folks in the greater Verde Valley take charge, get involved, do something about it, or the community college concept of providing accessible, low-cost vocational and two-year education, is pretty much dead," Oliphant said.

Creating a completely separate district would take considerable time and legislation, Oliphant said.

Another option Oliphant mentioned asks Yavapai College to postpone or indefinitely halt the sale of the Sedona campus until the community can outline what it wants out of its college, and possibly establish a memorandum of understanding with the board to create a separate administrative arm for the west side.

If the Sedona campus does go up for sale, it won't happen until the fourth through seventh years of the 10-year plan.

Attendees were given notecards and asked to provide contact information and what they'd like to see in a community college.

County Superintendent Tim Carter, Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens, and Sedona Mayor Rob Adams were a few of the community leaders present. The college was represented in the audience by board member Harold Harrington, Verde Campus Dean James Perey, and vice president of finance Clint Ewell, among others.

College officials jumped in on occasion to dispute numbers and offer explanations to some of the points Oliphant presented.

While Prescott may be getting a larger slice of the entire campus master plan, Ewell said the college is spending about twice as much capital per Verde campus student.

"Sitting here, on the spot, I can't confirm or deny these numbers," Ewell said. "And I'd rather us be presenting to the community once, an agreed-upon set of numbers."

Ewell said the Verde campus has expenses of $12.5 million and revenues of $12.2 million.

"Based on the best numbers that we have from the county auditor, we believe that our expenses on the Verde side exceed our revenues," Ewell said.

Wicks said residents should be able to keep access to programs paid for through their tax dollars. There are no programs in Camp Verde, but the residents' property taxes bring more than $1 million into the college, she said.

It's difficult to tell what each dollar pays for in the taxpayer-supported portion of the college's budget, Cottonwood council member Randy Garrison said.

Garrison spoke during the meeting as one of several people Oliphant and Wicks brought in to help gather information for the exploratory group.

Sedona and Camp Verde both broke down how much residents pay into the college through property taxes. Garrison said not having a concrete set of numbers everyone can refer to is part of why misconceptions are persisting.

"I really would ask all of you to put a little pressure on your political entities to do a little better job of getting us the numbers we need so we can sit down and have a real serious conversation about what you're spending and what you're getting," he said.

Garrison said properties can span multiple tax areas, and, in talks with the county, there have been arguments over pennies on the dollar.

Looking at the big picture, Garrison said the county is broken into five districts based on 20 percent of the population, and tax contributions to the college are typically in line with that.

Minus tuition and state aid, Adams said the Verde Valley contributes a little more than two-fifths of the total $30 million paid into the college through property taxes.

Adams said the City of Sedona determined almost $6.6 million in property taxes goes toward Yavapai College annually.

"We went directly to the tax rolls of the town. We didn't ask the county what it was," he said. "We did our own interpretation that aligns with the numbers that we got from Yavapai College, so we're confident that they're accurate."

Taxpayer-supported bond dollars under the previous facilities master plan in 2000 opened the Sedona Film School, and low enrollment is sunsetting the program under the current proposed plan.

These programs with declining enrollment cannot grow if resources are centralized at Prescott area campuses, which are flourishing with the college's support and promotion, Oliphant said.

"One of the reasons we are not thriving ... is because we don't bring people on campus," Oliphant said.

The new 10-year plan sets aside more than $6.7 million for a new residence hall on the Prescott campus, Oliphant said.

Dorms have been pursued for the Verde campus several times, Wicks said, most recently when the college broke ground on the Southwest Wine Center.

The Sedona campus doesn't have a dorm despite a large portion of its film students coming from out of state, Wicks said, and not having a dorm on the Verde campus restricts events and seminars at the wine center.

"That was never allowed on the Verde campus even though we had programs that could really thrive and could become much more viable programs with those kinds of support," Wicks said.

Linda Buchanan of the Yavapai College Foundation attended the meeting, and said it's important for a school to be able to house students from the nearby reservations as well as from out of state.

"It's a really valuable thing for our student body to have that diversity," Buchanan said.

Harrington said the $12 million in collected property taxes from eastern Yavapai wouldn't cover the $30-million cost of putting in a dorm from the ground up.

"We'd love to have dorms in the Verde Valley," Harrington said. "If you guys want to pay for them, we'll put them up."

Ewell said the college can work with Oliphant, Wicks and others to find solid taxpayer data, but more important than finding concrete numbers is getting into the community and understanding what people think is missing.

The 10-year plan was drafted based on input from community forums and data compiled by SmithGroupJJR, a research firm with an office in Phoenix that Ewell said has performed the same standard process at 200 schools across the country.

"We had open forums here in the Verde Valley, but I don't know that we had the people in this room participating," he said. "Otherwise, we might have very different results."

Follow the reporter on Twitter @ymgonzal or on Instagram @VerdeValleyNews

Taylor Waste
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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, February 23, 2014
Article comment by: Tom Babbitt

Thank you Linda for being a real person, your opinion maters. I could easily write an AI chatterbox to replace the anonymous.
The truth is that there is only one Yavapai Collage regardless of the physical location. Those who whine about a 40 minute drive between the two are just crybabys, The Verde Valley is in no way suffering because of a lack of tax money.

Posted: Saturday, February 22, 2014
Article comment by: Slater Slater

It's a matter of class and tradition.Cottonwad is
a dump.More connections on the green and
more importantly Whiskey Row.

Posted: Saturday, February 22, 2014
Article comment by: Don't want to replicate want to improve

@ Real Info:

If the Verde splits off, it wouldn't be to just "replicate" what the college is doing now.

We'd do it improve over the current program. Significantly.

That, and have more control over how we spend our tax dollars.

Giving Prescott 80% of our property tax money is not in our best interest.

Keeping it local is.

Posted: Friday, February 21, 2014
Article comment by: Take Your Time Get the Real Info

The residents of the verde valley, and the county as a whole should pay attenttion to issues like this. As you do please make sure you are careful to split rhetoric from substance. There are verde voices right now that are speaking the language of emotion rather than reason. Take your time and make an educated decision. When all is taken into account you will find that YC's presence in the verde valley is subsidised by taxpayers from the west side of the county. Those tax payers are not complaining about it and in fact many are proud that the county as a whole is able to provide such a quality education experience on the east side of the mountain. When all is taken into account if the verde valley splits off to their own district then students and the community will suffer because we simply won't be able to replicate the current level of offering on our own.

Posted: Friday, February 21, 2014
Article comment by: Linda Buchanan

I would like to clarify my comment regarding student housing. The quote attributed to me was taken out of context. At that point in the conversation, we were discussing the merits of dormitories at the Prescott Campus, which I support.

I am not a proponent of dormitories at the Verde Valley Campus, for several reasons. Foremost, in my experience with local HS graduates, they like to get "away from home" to the big city of Prescott. Secondly, I think we have wonderful local, private venues that are adequate for seminars, conferences, etc., and I don't believe the College should compete with private enterprise. We also seem to have an adequate inventory of affordable housing in the Verde Valley to meet the needs of students (of all ages). Furthermore, as higher education trends toward hybrid and online courses, I believe campus housing is less and less relevant. Finally, I'm not convinced that dormitories would be a welcome addition to the Clarkdale and Cottonwood single-family residential neighborhoods adjacent to campus.

Posted: Friday, February 21, 2014
Article comment by: Yavapai Democrat

If you want information about the budget of Yavapai College, you can start by looking here: http://www.yc.edu/budget/

Posted: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Article comment by: Get Real

Could we just get real and talk about the Verde Valley? Who says East Yavapai? Just so I'm understanding, did tax dollars from Camp Verde somehow become more valuable than those from Kirkland, Skull Valley, Yarnell, Bagdad, Selligman, Ashfork, Black Canyon City, etc.? Is each community going to see an exact ROI, just like our County tax expense (ha ha)? Hey, I've been paying a lot of tax dollars for my fire district. Can I get a refund? My house has never burned down! Also, I'm paying for my Library district, but I haven't borrowed a book since George Orwell 's 1984. Please send my refund check ASAP (with interest).

Posted: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Article comment by: Tom Babbitt

The drunks of the Verde Valley cannot be trusted with money they will only spend it on more wine. Don't make the mistake of thinking that I am a lone voice.

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