Graham County Community College District seeks voter approval to adjust spending limit without increasing taxes

The Graham County Community College District Governing Board has moved to ask voters to update a 1980-established spending limit that affects Eastern Arizona College’s ability to provide comprehensive education services. The proposed revision would double the decades-old base expenditure limit from approximately $4.5 million to $9 million, enabling Eastern Arizona College to utilize funds it already has without a tax increase for residents.

In 1980, Arizona voters approved a constitutional amendment setting an annual expenditure ceiling for community colleges and other governmental entities. This measure, while intended to ensure fiscal responsibility, now poses a significant challenge due to the changing educational landscape and inflationary pressures. The limit is currently calculated based on expenditures from fiscal year 1979-80.

“The proposed adjustment is crucial to sustain EAC’s mission of providing affordable and flexible education, especially considering the additional programs and services introduced since the original limit was set,” said Jeff Larson, chair of the Graham County Community College District Governing Board. “This measure ensures that EAC can allocate the funds it already has, without additional cost to our taxpayers.”

If voters approve the adjustment set for the 2024 General Election in November, Eastern Arizona College will be able to maintain and expand its educational offerings, including affordable baccalaureate degrees and programs aiding high school students. Conversely, failure to adjust the base will necessitate immediate and significant cuts in educational programs and services, spelling an end to the College’s ability to attract students and staff that are necessary to ensure its continued operations. This scenario will likely lead to the closure of EAC’s campus.

“The 1980 expenditure limitation policy acts as a safeguard for government spending, ensuring that taxpayer funds are managed properly,” Larson stated. “By prompting a voter decision on financial restructuring, it is doing what it was set up to do. For Eastern Arizona College, this decision is crucial; if the expenditure limit is not adjusted, it will necessitate significant operational changes that will jeopardize the future of our campus.”

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