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Department Publications

Governing Board Defines
Community College District's Mission
(Part 3 of a 3-part Series)

The State Board of Directors for Community Colleges in Arizona exercises limited authority over the state's community colleges. That agency merely coordinates the activities of institutions statewide--and then, only as expressly permitted by the legislature.

Consequently, under state statute, a community college district is left to define for itself its unique means of delivering instruction and other services to the community it serves. Responsibility for defining such activities is reposed with the district's governing board.

A district governing board, however--like the State Board--is subject to the limitations which the legislature imposes. Virtually any activity in which a community college district might wish to engage must be based in statutory authority.

In some areas, a district governing board has no latitude to decide what it will or will not do; that is, the legislature has imposed upon each Arizona community college district a set of mandatory powers which a district--typically through its governing board--must perform.

The most salient mandatory powers of a district governing board are those which require the board to:

  • maintain each community college for a period of "not less than eight months in each year and, if the funds of the district are sufficient, maintain each community college for a longer period."
  • appoint such personnel as chancellors, vice-chancellors, presidents, deans, instructors, and "other officers and employees as it deems necessary."
  • set the salaries of its officers and employees, as well as remove any officer or employee if, in the governing board's judgment, "the interests of education in this state require the removal."
  • award degrees, certificates and diplomas upon the completion of courses and curriculum as the governing board deems appropriate.

In other areas, a district board has the authority--but not the mandate--to take action. Among a board's discretionary powers are:

  • administering trusts declared or created for the district, as well as the receipt of gifts of property.
  • providing optional retirement programs among its employee benefit offerings.
  • contracting with other entities.
  • adopting rules "for the control of vehicles and nonpedestrian devices."

The legal responsibilities of district boards, however, go well beyond the legislature's general descriptions of mandatory and discretionary powers. Among all the statutory provisions that authorize a community college district's activities, the most extensive are those which prescribe the district's fiscal operations.

Here, the district board's role is most prominent. Only the board may propose--and ultimately adopt--a budget for the district each year. Similarly, a governing board has exclusive authority to conduct a bond election.

Finally, a district governing board is subject to other provisions of law that are not unique to such a body, but apply as well to other boards or commissions that govern political subdivisions.

For example, a governing board meets the definition of the term "public body" as contained in Arizona's open meeting law; accordingly, a governing board must (as required by the law) conduct its business in full view of the public.

Additionally, governing board members must comply with state statutes that prescribe ethical conduct by public officers, most notably the Arizona conflict of interest statutes.

Published in the Winter 2000 Edition of In Brief

Questions or comments?
Contact Lee Combs @ 480.731.8878

Maricopa Community Colleges
Office of General Counsel
2411 West 14th Street
Tempe, AZ 85281-6942
480.731.8877 / 480.731.8890 fax

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Page Updated 01/17/02

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