CAC tax rate falls; budget grows 3%

Casa Grande Valley Newspaper
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Susan Randall

SIGNAL PEAK - The Central Arizona College Governing Board on Thursday approved a $38.2 million budget for 2006-07 that includes a slight reduction in the property tax rate.

The rate will drop from $2.10 per $100 net assessed value to $2.06.

Dennis Jenkins, CAC's vice president for finance and community development, said the rate would have dropped to $2.04, but the college has to pay its share of the Kinder-Morgan judgment after the Arizona Tax Court found that the pipeline company overpaid its property taxes for several years and must be paid back.

This is the third of four years that CAC's tax rate has dropped, Jenkins said.

The board also approved a "Truth in Taxation Notice" that says the tax rate is higher than it would be if calculated by a formula created by the Arizona Tax Research Association.

"We're decreasing the tax rate," Jenkins said, "but we have to tell people we're increasing it."

He called the formula used for the Truth in Taxation Notice "the biggest joke in state statutes."

"Casa Grande has had a 99-cent tax rate for years," he said, "and it had to publish the same thing."

Pending legislation

Jenkins said bills have been introduced in the House and Senate that would cap CAC's maximum tax levy at this year's expenditure limit, $30 million, instead of the maximum allowed by current law, which is just under $50 million.

Jenkins said that would penalize the college for frugal budgeting over the years and take away the capacity for future growth. Community college districts that are already at the maximum levy would not be affected by the bills.

CAC President Terry Calaway said the ATRA is a lobbying group for big business, which would benefit most from the changes. There would be little savings to homeowners.

"Right now it appears they have the votes to pass it," he added. "We need to actively oppose this one."

Board members asked him to draft a letter from the board to the House, the Senate and the Governor's Office opposing the legislation.

President's contract

The board renewed Calaway's contract, increasing his base salary to $170,000 a year, his expenses for travel and civic duties by $2,000 and providing a $5,000 deferred annuity.

Board member Rick Gibson said the salary is at about the midpoint for rural community college presidents in Arizona.

Renewal came after a long executive (closed) session.

Community partner

The board recognized Pinal County Sheriff Chris Vasquez and the Sheriff's Office as a community partner.

Calaway said the PCSO has been an essential part of the Central Arizona Regional Law Officers Training Academy at Signal Peak.

Its officers saved the life of a CAC police officer injured while on duty. And it has helped keep the campus safe while the officer recovers.

"When we asked for help," Calaway said, "they stepped up and did everything that needed to be done."

Vasquez said he is only as good as the people who work for him. He thanked the board on behalf of "the men and women who did the work."

He added that he is a graduate of CAC and played baseball for the college.

"Anytime you need anything, just ask," he said.

Other business

Jenkins reported that the college has spent roughly 94 percent of this year's budget. (The end of the fiscal year is June 30.)

He would like to end the year spending only 97 percent of the budget so 3 percent can be set aside for emergencies. If CAC does not meet the 97 percent goal this year, he said, it will in the next few years.

John Irvine, dean of academic services, reported that CAC signed an agreement with Arizona State University that will provide a "seamless" transition for students who want to earn an associate and bachelor's degrees in certain areas.

Programs for early childhood education and interdisciplinary studies should be available by the fall semester.

Programs for special education, secondary education, honors, the transfer seminar course, the Presidential Scholarship program, nursing and the social sciences are being discussed.

Irvine reported that the men's track team and the women's track team won the national outdoor championship last weekend.

Calaway reported that Linda Heiland, executive director of curriculum, and Linda Day, curriculum support analyst, were awarded the national League for Innovation in the Community College's "Innovation of the Year Award" for 2005-06 for student learning outcomes at CAC.

Calaway said the Arizona Friends of Small Business awarded the 2005 Center of Excellence Award to CAC's Small Business Development Center.

Calaway announced that board member Allen Shockley was moving out of the district at the end of the month and had given the board his letter of resignation. He thanked Shockley for several years of service. Shockley was elected to represent the Apache Junction area.

Shockley said he was sorry to leave CAC. He and his wife believe in the community college system.

"It's what we do for people that's important," he said.