On Tuesday, June 5, the Yavapai County Community College District Board held Truth in Taxation and Budget hearings to consider its proposed 2.04 percent increase in tax levy for Yavapai County property owners. the college is a major recipient of property tax dollars. according to the County Assessor’s office, it receives just over 26 percent of property tax payments by Prescott residential property owners.
The June 5 hearings generated several comments in opposition to the tax increase as well as calling for a more open and publicized budgeting process. nonetheless the budget and tax increase were approved by the Governing Board as proposed.
Among the concerns raised by these hearings is the lack of data or analysis on operating performance of Yavapai College relative to its peers. Is the college really being a good steward of taxpayer dollars? we simply cannot determine the answer based on the limited information shared with the public. the following letter has been submitted on behalf of the Citizens Tax Committee to members of the Yavapai College Governing Board in the hope that information with which to judge whether the college is operating efficiently will be made available in the future.
Dr. Dale Fitzner, ChairmanGoverning Board of the Yavapai County Community College DistrictYavapai College, Building 32, Room 2031100 East Sheldon StreetPrescott, Arizona 86301
I am writing on behalf of the Yavapai County Citizens Tax Committee to follow up on an issue raised at the June 5 Yavapai College District Governing Board Truth in Taxation and Budget hearings. as you will recall, several members of the public expressed concern regarding the Board’s decision to increase the property tax levy for the college and asked the Board to pursue opportunities to reduce the college’s operating costs. One of your Board colleagues – I believe it was mr. Sigafoos – defended the college’s efficiency by citing several years of declining inflation adjusted expense per full time student equivalent (FTSE).
Because we agree that expense per FTSE is a useful measure of operational efficiency at the college, we thought it would be useful to examine how Yavapai College compares to other community colleges in Arizona in terms of that measure. we did identify a 2007 report by the Arizona Tax Research Association noting that the full-time student equivalent (FTSE) cost for Yavapai College was the highest of the 11 community college districts in the state. unfortunately, however, we were unable to find any mention of current cost comparisons with other community colleges in the materials distributed by the Board, and we also failed to find a central repository for these data online.
We did, however, find comparable fiscal year 2012-2013 budget data for several Arizona community colleges, including Coconino County, Gila County, Maricopa County, Pima County and Santa Cruz County. interestingly, despite the declines in inflation adjusted expenditures per FTSE cited by your colleague, this ratio remains far higher — in fact, more than 20 percent higher — at Yavapai College than at the other colleges for which I was able to obtain current year budget data.
It certainly is possible that some other Arizona community college districts have higher costs per full time student equivalent, and we would be most interested in receiving copies of the Summary of Budget Data form for the community college districts that were not included in our sample. yet unless data for other in-state community colleges is dramatically different than what is revealed by this partial review of per student operational expenses, our organization believes Yavapai County taxpayers deserve a clear understanding of why our local community college’s spending is so out of line with its peers and what actions Yavapai College could take to improve the financial efficiency of its operations. after all, a significant portion of Yavapai County property taxes go to support Yavapai College (for example, approximately 26 percent of City of Prescott residential property taxes go to Yavapai College).
We are hereby requesting that the official budget forms for all Arizona community colleges be compiled, that a comprehensive comparison of per student expenditures at Yavapai College versus all other Arizona community colleges be prepared, and that these materials be made available to the public as soon as practicable. further, we are requesting that a comparison of Yavapai College expenses with its peers be incorporated in the budget materials prepared and distributed to the public before all future budget hearings.
John P. Danforth, Ph.D.Director, Citizens Tax CommitteeP.O. Box 11408Prescott, Arizona 86304
Cc: mr. Raymond SigafoosMr. Herald HarringtonMr. Charles LeonDr. Patricia McCarver