Arizona Colleges Profit From Marijuana Sales :: WRAL.com

— More marijuana sales mean more funding for community colleges throughout Arizona.

The state’s 10 community college districts got a windfall of more than $31 million from major recreational marijuana spending in the first year of sales in 2021.

The Proposition 207 campaign initiative that legalized recreational marijuana created a 16% excise tax and required the state to distribute about a third of that money to community colleges, with the rest going mostly to public safety departments. and transportation, health and criminal justice programs.

Colleges can use the funds for workforce development, STEM and certain other education programs, the Arizona Republic reported.

The increase in college funding is significant — it’s less publicized, but roughly equal to Governor Doug Ducey’s proposal to invest $30 million of federal funds in six new “workforce accelerators” in state community colleges.

Community college officials said they plan to use marijuana tax money in a variety of ways, including expanding public safety programs, adding new job-training initiatives and helping fund research projects. construction.

Colleges received varying amounts of sales tax revenue in June and December based on their enrollment, according to state treasurer distribution reports.

Cochise College, which received more than $2 million last year, is using the funds to significantly expand its first responder academy programs.

“It wouldn’t be done at the level that we’re now able to do because of these dollars coming in,” Cochise College President JD Rottweiler said. “It really allows us to get this initiative off the ground and move it forward faster at a time when our frontline workers” are badly needed.

Maricopa Community Colleges, the state’s largest system, got more than $17 million from the marijuana tax fund last year, which it plans to use for workforce programs and potentially using $5 million for bridge funding to help cover labor or STEM-related expenses due to budget shortfalls.

The money comes at a time when some community colleges continue to struggle with a slow rebound from the pandemic, with Maricopa for example seeing declining enrollment and struggling financially.

Here is approximately what the colleges received and how they plan to spend it:

Maricopa Community Colleges: $17.2M

Maricopa has spent $7.6 million on operating costs for its GateWay Community College Skills Centers, which provide training in trades and technical areas. The centers offer career-specific short-term certificate programs in areas such as health care, technology, trades, and beauty and wellness, depending on the district.

Officials can also spend $5 million on filling gaps in operating expenses, according to a proposed budget presented to the board last month. That’s not enough to cover the $51 million general fund shortfall the district projects without any budget intervention next year, so tuition cuts and hikes could come in years to come. .

The Proposition 207 bridge funding would only be used to cover authorized labor or science, technology, engineering and math expenses in the general fund, according to spokesman Matt Hasson. .

The district is still deciding which workforce-related projects the remaining $4.6 million will fund.

Pima Community College: $3.9 million

Pima Community College, the state’s second-largest system, spent a portion of Proposition 207 funds on capital projects to expand and remodel health professions spaces and science labs, according to the gate. -spoken Libby Howell.

Cochise College: $2.1 million

The funds go to the First Responder Academy for Police, Fire and Emergency Medicine, including to complete the installation of the academy and pay for the expansion of faculty and staff. The college can also use the money to expand its wildfire fighting, condensed training and continuing education programs for public safety agencies, Rottweiler said.

Western College of Arizona: $1.7 million

The Yuma-based college plans to use funds from the $35 million in revenue bonds it issued to update facilities, including electronic games, cybersecurity and allied health programs, according to spokesperson Mandy Heil. Arizona Western College is also using some of the money for a “living learning facility” to replace an old residence hall.

Arizona Western College covers Yuma and La Paz counties.

Yavapai College: $1.4 million

Money from Proposition 207 will help expand services at the college’s regional economic development center, spokesman Tyler Rumsey said. The center helps promote economic development, workforce growth and regional collaboration.

College of Central Arizona: $1.3 million

Central Arizona College in Pinal County invests money in public safety program initiatives such as improving the driving and shooting range, police equipment, ammunition and other supplies, according to chief financial officer Chris Wodka. They will spend the remaining money on STEM and workforce development programs.

Mohave Community College: $1.1M

Mohave Community College will use part of the funds to help pay for the construction of an advanced manufacturing training center in the Kingman Airport Industrial Park. The college can also use the money to expand career and technical education and STEM programs based on Northwestern Arizona’s workforce needs, according to spokesman James Jarman.

Eastern Arizona College: $1 million

The Thatcher-based college will use marijuana sales tax money to help build a skills center for several workforce development programs aimed at providing skills and referrals for in-demand careers in the region, by spokesperson Kris McBride.

Coconino Community College: $930,000

Coconino is using the funds to expand career and technical training offerings, including launching new programs. The funds helped support additional faculty and expand programs in emergency medical services, fire science, early childhood education and marine maintenance, per Executive Vice President Jami Van Ess.

Northland Pioneer College: $900,000

The community college with campuses in Navajo County can use the funds to expand welding and early childhood education programs, according to college president Chato Hazelbaker. And by fall 2023, the college plans to launch a new workforce program with sales tax money, he said.

Provisional ridings: $228,000 and $112,000

Provisional community college districts in Gila and Santa Cruz counties also received smaller portions of state funds. These colleges contract with colleges in other counties for programs—Gila with Eastern Arizona College in Graham County and Santa Cruz with Pima Community College in Pima County.

Sallie R. Loera