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Understanding the Importance of Funding Education

As your Mayor and a lifelong Flagstaffian, I know firsthand how important Northern Arizona University is to our community. I attended NAU and my daughter is currently a student there. NAU is quite literally my neighbor. Professors, students and employees are my constituents. I believe we are not doing enough to fund education in this state and that NAU desperately needs more funding. With that said, it is very disappointing that the governor’s proposed budget includes a mechanism that would allow NAU to recapture the Transaction Privilege Tax (sales tax) it pays to the state before those monies are distributed to towns and cities.

Flagstaff and NAU are intricately connected. Flagstaff maintains the roads NAU employees and students use, we maintain a police force that keeps everyone safe. We provide the public libraries, parks and urban trails that are part of what makes Flagstaff a great place to live. This proposal is making people choose between city services such as public safety and universities. Flagstaff needs NAU and NAU needs Flagstaff; you can’t have one without the other. We should be working together to better our community and it is irresponsible to pit us against each other for funding.

The state has a constitutional obligation to fund our public universities and I believe strongly that they need to do a much better job. It should not be done at the expense of the towns on which the university relies. A tax cut for NAU is not the answer, a responsible budget from the state legislature is.

The truth of the matter is taxes exist for a reason. I cannot afford a water treatment plant, you may not be able to afford a snowplow. My neighbor certainly can’t afford a fire truck. But we need water treatment plants and snowplows, police and fire departments so we all chip in and government provides these services. Since 2008, Arizona has cut more from higher education than any other state in the country – it has dropped by 56 percent. At the same time, tax cuts and credits drained money from the state’s general fund. According to the latest report from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee taxes collected from corporate income are $168.8 million below prior year collections and $69.3 million below forecast. Businesses need an educated workforce. Families need schools and parks for their children. Universities enrich the lives of the entire community. We can’t fund one at the expense of the other.

The funding problems at our public universities go much deeper than having to pay sales tax, taking money from the cities and towns these universities rely on is ultimately harmful to both. FBN

By Coral Evans

Coral Evans is the mayor of Flagstaff.

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