SIGNAL PEAK — The Central Arizona College Governing Board has approved a budget of roughly $136.1 million for the 2011-12 school year, which begins July 1. The tax rate is rising but the total tax levy is falling because of lower property values.
The budget includes $39.5 million for the general fund, $88.8 million for the unexpended plant fund and $7.8 million to retire debt.
The general fund is less than 1 percent higher than this year’s general fund. The other two funds are more than 40 percent higher because they include money for renovations and new construction from the sale of bonds approved by voters in 2008.
The combined property tax rate is expected to increase by 27 cents per $100 net assessed value to $1.85 per $100. But because the county’s net assessed value decreased, the total tax levy (amount collected) will be $40.2 million, roughly $600,000 less than this year.
No member of the public spoke during Tuesday’s public hearing.
CAC President Dennis Jenkins said representatives from Arizona Public Service Co., Salt River Project, Southwest Gas Corp. and the Arizona Tax Research Association attended a major taxpayers’ meeting last week. Board member Rick Gibson asked if they voiced any concerns.
Jenkins said ATRA President Kevin McCarthy asked what the college would do with savings from a reduction in contributions to the state retirement plan.
“I said there are no real savings, because the contribution to state retirement for every employer went up by 0.3 percent [even with employees paying 53 percent of the cost].”
McCarthy said Wednesday in an email interview that he had no major concerns with CAC’s budget.
“Certainly, the tax rate increases are a concern for taxpayers whose values have not been falling,” he wrote, “but the college deserves some credit for trying to soften some of that by reducing the primary levy. The college has an extremely favorable cash position, which puts it in better position to weather the effects of the weak economy and state budget cuts.”
Doris Helmich, vice president of student services, said 499 CAC students graduated with degrees and 161 with certificates this year for a total of 660. More students pursed degrees than certificates this year, a switch from previous years. CAC awarded 309 degrees and 396 certificates in 2008-09, for a total of 705 graduates. It awarded 365 degrees and 360 certificates in 2009-10, for 725 graduates.
Helmich said much of the decrease in graduates with certificates is because the Arizona Department of Corrections cut funding for inmates to take classes.
Chief Technology Officer Rich King said three trends are changing computer technology — mobility, the virtual desktop and cloud computing. CAC needs to consider them and how they could be used.
Laptop computers, smart phones and tablet technology are examples of computer mobility, he said. They are small, use little power, can be taken most places and still access the Internet or CAC’s resources. But they also can be expensive, have limited screen sizes, and many require a wireless plan. They also have challenges with durability and viruses.
Virtual desktops are networks of individual screens connected to a giant server by an interface box, so there is only one software load. Clients receive only the image on the screen, not the full data flow. They are less expensive than personal computers, about $300 for the box that connects the screen to the server. They are less complex, use 6 watts of power compared to 200 watts, and users can log in anywhere, because only the image arrives over the Internet. The system is remotely controlled by IT staff. The replacement cycle is seven years, instead of three or four, and they cannot get a virus. But back office costs are higher and licenses are required for each desktop, another $300 each.
With cloud computing, the Internet is the cloud, King said. Storage is in the cloud. The database and server are in the cloud. Clients pay as they go. If they need only limited access, that’s all they pay for. Google Chrome Book, for example, costs $20 a month for all computing needs, including the computer. The flexibility is immense, King said, but if the Internet goes down, the client is down, too.