The Santa Cruz County Provisional Community College (SCCPCC) Board has voted unanimously to significantly raise your property taxes. The board met April 23 at the Old Court House in Nogales. Prior to this decision, the college’s claim on your property tax was .000699% of your “full cash,” “assessed” property value (third column in the “ASSESSMENT” box at top of your blue and white County tax bill). As a result of the board’s decision you will now be charged .0042% of that value—a 601% increase! The college’s budget for 2013 was $352,000. The projected budget for 2014 is $1.7 million— a 370% increase. The college plans to levy 2014 property taxes for $1.4 million of that total. The bulk of the whopping increase is to cover the cost of leasing and outfitting a classroom facility in Nogales. Personnel costs are projected to grow from $611,000 to $940,000—a 54% increase.
At the meeting on April 23 the board was asked if it had considered a bond issue to fund the needed capital improvements. Board members did not have the answer at hand and promised to provide it at the May 9 meeting. The May board meeting came and went, and still no answer. Fact is, yes, according to Arizona law, a provisional community college can issue bonds.
The question is, why was it not considered? Further, I did a little digging on the impact that a 1/4 cent increase in county sales tax would provide on income for the college. Well, guess what? In 2012 the county garnered $2,847,980.99 from its 1/2 cent sales tax. If the county sales tax were to be increased by 1/4 cent, the yield would be $1,423,990.40— almost exactly what the college needs from its current property tax levy. Was that approach even considered? There are a lot of tax delinquent real estate properties in this county. That situation just means that good citizens are being gouged to take up the slack.
Folks, when the creation of the college appeared on the ballot in 2010 we were all warned that the cost of this venture was going to go nowhere but up—and that is the track it is on. I would be the last to make it difficult for youngsters—or oldsters for that matter—to better themselves through continuing education. The issue here is whether the right approach is being taken. I think not.
What’s the message here? The message is, the current property tax approach to funding the SCCPCC is wrong headed. While levies may dip in 2015, you know they will ramp up from there as course offerings are increased and additional staff hired. Simply put—we, the voters, need to rethink this whole thing.