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On Feb. 7, I wrote an editorial “Yavapai College’s 10-year plan aims to rob Verde Valley” detailing how the college planned to take revenues from Sedona and Verde Valley taxpayers over the next 10 years to invest in capital projects for buildings in Prescott and Prescott Valley. The capital improvements total more than $103 million.

Yavapai College has campuses in Prescott, Prescott Valley and Clarkdale. It plans to sell its Sedona Center for Arts & Technology campus, former home of the Sedona Film School and Zaki Gordon Institute for Independent Filmmaking, according to its recently released 10-year plan. Many programs will be consolidated, moving them from the Verde Valley to the far side of Mingus Mountain.Sedona and Verde Valley taxpayers give Yavapai College $12.2 million per year. We will give $122 million over 10 years and receive $2.7 million back — 2.2 percent. Excluding $2 million for the viticulture program, we get back $700,000, or 0.57 percent, about one half-penny per dollar. If we pay $12.2 million per year, some of those revenues should come back to us but the college is moving the established nursing program away from the Verde Valley to Prescott, the Sedona Film School is closing in May and the building where the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute holds classes will be sold.

Yavapai College Director of Marketing and Communication Mike Lange called me to set up a meeting to discuss what he called “misinformation” from residents who see this 10-year plan as unfair. Lange claimed he had numbers showing Yavapai College giving Sedona and the Verde Valley somewhere near its fair share of tax revenue in services. In our 35-minute call, I repeatedly asked for numbers, which Lange did not provide.

Managing Editor Christopher Fox GrahamHe did promise to bring data to us. Thus, I agreed to a meeting on Thursday, Feb. 20, at 2 p.m., allocating three hours to look over his numbers with reporter Corwin Gibson. I invited Lange to invite anyone he wanted, hoping for a financial officer and/or administrator to speak with us. I was looking forward to a long, informative conversation with Yavapai College administrators.

Instead, a day before our meeting, Lange backed out of the meeting he and Yavapai College themselves asked for: “Following our Friday conversation, I believe it would be an unproductive use of your time and our time to meet on Thursday. However, I’d like to submit the attached ‘Guest Perspective’ column by YC President Dr. Penny Wills.”

I immediately individually emailed the entire Governing Board and the college president asking for a meeting with anyone. I have not received even one reply since Feb. 19.

Either my staff of hipsters and poets in fedoras and black-rimmed glasses are utterly terrifying or my editorial was so accurate that Yavapai College had no hard data to refute it. Without a meeting, we can only guess.

In Wills’ letter, published today, note the following:

Wills’ letter begins with an anecdote from a student who is not an expert in Yavapai College’s 10-year plan nor does the student address how taxpayer money is spent.

The student’s “experience and statement stand in stark contrast to recent attempts in the Verde Valley to misrepresent the intentions of the college,” Wills writes, but addresses none of the “misrepresented” facts. There is not a dollar amount included about the next 10 years.

In fact, there are no dollar amounts for any future years in Wills’ letter, just references to proposed programs and facilities we have already built and paid for.

“Most of the county’s population growth is projected to be in the Prescott Valley area, which is more central to county residents than either Prescott or Verde Valley.” Apparently the 40,000 residents already living in the Verde Valley are worth less than the residents who may one day live in Prescott Valley in 2024. All the young people, working families and seniors in the Verde Valley who try to improve their education aren’t entitled to what their property taxes pay for. Wills is asking Verde Valley students to drive more than an hour for classes in Prescott.

“Do reasonable taxpayers who don’t use fire or police services begrudge the use of their taxes for these services?” she asks.

If Cottonwood wants new ambulances, great. But we don’t steal every ambulance from Sedona and move them all to Cottonwood because there might one day be more sick people there — while continuing to collect Sedona property taxes. If Prescott needs a taxpayer-funded highway, we understand, but don’t steal our asphalt to build it.

Wills then lists several vague “benefits,” none of which include any dollar amounts.

“There’s much more, but I’d rather close with this comment …” she writes, then includes another anecdote from someone who is also a not an expert in the college’s 10-year plan.

If there is “much more,” then prove it, Dr. Wills, with hard data.

Ironically, in describing how beneficial the college has been through anecdotes, Wills does more harm than good — those anecdotes won’t exist in 10 years, because Yavapai College is stealing our programs and funding and there won’t be any students from the Verde Valley to quote in a decade.

If Yavapai College refuses to speak with us on behalf our readers or defend its actions to taxpayers, fine. Just give us back our tax money.

Other colleges and universities would love to use our $122 million for extension campuses.

Christopher Fox Graham

Managing Editor

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