The Navajo County Community College District Governing Board approved the contract for the first phase of major upgrades to Northland Pioneer College’s telecommunications microwave network during its regular monthly meeting February 21 in Holbrook.
The microwave network is the backbone of the college's distance learning delivery, utilizing 12 towers to bring instruction to the college's nine locations, plus area high schools. During the initial phase, a new tower will be erected on the Holbrook campus on Navajo Blvd., plus existing towers, many originally erected in the late 1980s, will be inspected, repaired and equipment upgraded to ensure reliability of service.
Partnering with Navajo County, a secondary connection will be established between the college's two main data centers in Holbrook and Show Low, plus to the Snowflake campus and Whiteriver and Springerville centers.
Work will begin prior to June on the new Holbrook tower. NPC will de-commission a tower at its former campus on E. Hermosa, renting space to telecommunications providers. The second phase of the network improvement project will begin in July, with completion anticipated by mid-fall.
Preliminary Budget Analysis
An initial overview of revenue projections for the upcoming year painted a dim forecast with the uncertainty regarding the shutdown of the Cholla Power Plant in Joseph City, the Navajo Generating Station outside of Page, and its supporting entities of the Black Mesa Mine near Kayenta and the Black Mesa and Lake Powell Railroad.
NPC is anticipating small increases in state operational aid and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) funding. With declining Navajo County property valuations, NPC's share of state equalization aid is expected to increase to $6,672,100, nearly a quarter of NPC's revenue. State equalization aid is provided to rural community college districts with populations below 500,000 persons to compensate for property tax bases that are below the minimum average assessed valuations. Cochise and Graham counties are the other two districts currently eligible for equalization aid.
The primary property tax is assumed to be levied at the maximum rate, which is 2% higher than the current year's tax levy, explained Maderia Ellison, associate vice president for Business Services. Centrally-assessed properties, such as the power plants and rail lines, will continue to significantly impact the property tax levy for the next few years, she noted.
Ellison also presented a proposed three-year tuition plan, which would raise the per credit rate by $2 each of the first two years, then by $3 the third year. To be formally set by the governing board in March, NPC's proposed rate of $72 per credit hour will remain the lowest in Arizona. Staff is also requesting an increase in the Media Fee to $45 per semester, to help offset some of the costs of providing technology services.
On the expenditure side, Ellison presented a 1.5% salary increase for all contracted employees and adjunct instructors. No salary increases were given last year, only a one-time stipend to help offset part of the increase in healthcare insurance costs. By the board's March 21 meeting, other benefit costs for employee health insurance will be known.
Other Board Actions
- Accepted the Audited Annual Expenditure Limitation Report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016.
- Adjusted the FY 2015 – 16 Budget to actual expenditure amounts.
- Appointed Chair Frank Lucero as NCCCD's representative on the Arizona Association of District Governing Boards.
- Approved the LPN to RN Nursing program and other minor changes within the program.
- Approved changes to the General Education course options, adding several Sociology courses.
- Reviewed, as first-read only, the proposed 2017 – 18 Tuition and Fees and Salary and Wage recommendations.
Halfway through the fiscal year, property tax revenues match last year's receipts at 60% of anticipated budget, noted Ellison. Expenditures, especially for salary and wages, are below budget due to several key vacancies. She noted several construction projects were gearing up for the spring. Overall, the college is in a solid financial position.
“Arizona Gives Day is Tuesday, April 4,” proclaimed Betsyann Wilson, executive director of NPC Friends and Family. This one-day statewide fundraising event drew over $20,000 in donations to the nonprofit last year. “We finished fourth out of nearly 900 nonprofits, beating out many larger groups from the Valley and Tucson, and qualified for a $5,000 bonus.”
Wilson said the secure donation website, www.azgives.org/npcfriendsfamily, now allows donors to pre-schedule their donation for the Arizona Gives Day.
Other fundraising events coming up include a scramble golf tournament on April 29 at Silver Creek Golf Course, a disc golf tournament at the new Four Seasons course in Snowflake on August 12; and Pedal the Petrified Bicycle Ride on Saturday, September 16. “We are limited to just 250 riders in Pedal and we already have over 243 registered!” said Wilson. Information on these and other giving opportunities can be found on www.npcfriendsfamily.org.
Wilson also urged students to apply for several scholarships for fall, with a deadline of April 17 for most awarded through NPC Friends & Family. Details are at www.npc.edu/scholarships and search by type specifically for Friends and Family stipends.
NPC will be sending a smaller than normal group to the Higher Learning Commission's (HLC) annual meeting in Chicago in April. NPC continues to participate in the Commission's Persistence and Completion Academy to improve student completion rates. Two other Arizona community colleges who are going through the comprehensive visit component of accreditation will be sharing their insights with NPC prior to the next HLC visit in 2019 – 20.
During the call to the public, Lakeside resident Eric Kramer addressed the District Governing Board regarding potential partnership opportunities in training members of the White Mountain Apache Tribe for software development and web design careers.
The next regularly-scheduled meeting will be Tuesday, March 21, beginning at 10 a.m., in the Tiponi Community Center on the Holbrook – Painted Desert Campus, 2251 E. Navajo Blvd. Copies of the agenda are posted online at least 24 hours in advance.
The board will meet on Friday, March 10, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Snowflake/Taylor — Silver Creek Campus, room 111, in an informal retreat to discuss the process for searching for a new chief executive officer. NPC President Dr. Jeanne Swarthout has announced plans to retire in June 2018.
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