Central Arizona College implements cost containment initiatives
PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. – In an effort to balance the higher education needs of Pinal County students with the remnants of a challenging economy that has impacted area taxpayers, Central Arizona College President Dr. Doris Helmich is tapping into the creativity of employees for cost containment ideas.
On June 18, the Pinal County Community College District Governing Board approved a 28-cent increase on the assessed value of homes in Pinal County – about half the 55-cent increase CAC was requesting to operate at its current levels and fully open the two new campuses in the city of Maricopa and in the San Tan Valley.
The governing board’s decision to raise the tax rate by 28 cents still keeps Central Arizona College below the legal tax limit by more than 70 cents.
“We are responding to the perfect storm,” Helmich explained. “The county has not fully recovered from the recession and the college is demonstrating sensitivity to the issue. We have extremely talented and resourceful employees who are being asked to use their creativity in developing cost containment ideas.”
A decrease in state funding and a reduction in assessed value of Pinal County washed ashore at the same time Central Arizona College began planning to build and operate its two newest campuses.
“CAC needs to be focused on college completion and student retention,” Helmich stated. “When funding returns to the community colleges from the state, funding will return based on a performance funding formula. This formula will include college completion, student retention, and student success after developmental education. We all are responsible to help students accomplish these goals regardless of our positions at CAC; but now, more than ever, we must demonstrate how we might come together to achieve this goal. The future of our college and the county depend on it.”
In 2008, the voters of Pinal County gave CAC an overwhelming thumbs up to move forward with expansion plans at the college; in 2013, CAC is becoming savvy on completing that mandate while understanding the fiscal responsibility it has to the taxpayer.
“We need to be thinking about a new theory of work,” Helmich said. “We have been in a growth mode for some time, building new campuses and renovating spaces. Instead of focusing on expansion and growth, it is time for us to develop cost containing strategies to deliver quality education while providing the learning environment our students require.”
Over the decades, CAC has proven to be creative, resourceful and responsible to the students and the community. While employees mobilize to help streamline operations, Central Arizona College will implement several initiatives to immediately reduce costs.
- CAC will move to a year-round, four-day work week beginning Aug. 5 to reduce the cost of utilities, part-time wages and wear-and-tear on facilities. The move also helps trim CAC’s carbon footprint on the community by reducing the commuter traffic of its workforce.
- During the summer months, CAC is open 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Beginning Aug. 5, the district will move to an 8 a.m.-6 p.m. schedule Monday through Thursday. Evening classes will continue to be offered after regular business hours Monday through Thursday.
- Weekend College at the Corporate Center in Casa Grande, residence hall services at the Signal Peak Campus, and athletic events will continue.
- Some classes for the fall semester that previously were scheduled may have to run for this fall, but there will be no college services. Any necessary weekend staff meetings previously scheduled for the fall will take place at one of the small centers where utility costs are much lower than a full campus.
- Central Arizona College is instituting cost containment measures by consolidating facilities and staff. The Coolidge Center closed on June 30 with its staff relocated to areas of need at the college, while three senior-level administrative positions – the associate vice presidents for student affairs, human resources and institutional effectiveness – will not be filled.
- CAC will fully open the Maricopa Campus in August for the fall 2013 semester but will delay the opening of the San Tan Campus until January 2014.
- The college is reducing institutional scholarships and is re-instituting the purge for non-payment to insure that classes are full on the first day of the semester.
“While the financial state of the college still is strong, cost containment is critical,” Helmich said. “We will continue to reevaluate our options to ensure high quality education and fiscal responsibility.”