<CENTER><B>Letters to the Editor</b></center>

Cottonwood schools need override


The Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District (COCSD) currently has over 2,550 students in Kindergarten through the eighth grade, making us the area’s largest school district. The district is proud that we recently completed construction of a new school without burdening the local tax base. But, challenges continue. Providing additional staff and expanded programs has led us to the decision to ask our community for help.

On March 8, 2005, COCSD will be asking its voters to approve a budget that goes beyond the minimum spending levels set by the state. Our Legislature does its best to meet the needs of education, which accounts for the largest spending burden for state government. Unfortunately, Arizona currently ranks 50th nationally in education spending, and it is clear there isn’t any money in state coffers to improve this standing. In fact, state leaders are finding it a challenge to continue its existing level of support, making it exceedingly unlikely that we can look to Phoenix for additional help.

Fortunately, our state leaders recognize that communities might want to invest in their local schools, and this is an option we need to exercise. There can be no higher responsibility than to prepare our next generation for the challenges of an information-based economy. Good schools are an important component in keeping our community vibrant and healthy. Business leaders routinely examine the quality of local schools when they are looking to expand or relocate.

With that in mind, we are asking voters to authorize a five percent increase in our existing Maintenance and Operations (M&O) budget override for COCSD. Since 1997, voters have supported the programs of the district with a five percent override. Authorization on March 8 will permit COCSD to exceed state support by the allowable maximum of ten percent.

Taxpayers will receive good value for this investment. The additional $475,000 that would be raised through the override will be applied to the following programs:

All-day kindergarten classes will be allowed to continue. Many Arizona districts only offer half-day Kindergarten, even though a new study by the Arizona Department of Education found that nearly 60 percent of all-day Kindergarteners were able to read at the “benchmark” level in first grade, compared with 49 percent among children who attended half-day Kindergarten.

Special programs for gifted students will continue, along with other programs such as music, school bands and athletics. These enhancements keep students involved and significantly lessen the likelihood that they will drop out of school or get involved in drugs or gangs.

School counseling and nursing services, by licensed professionals, will continue.

Intervention and Alternative Education programs will continue to be offered to students who need special help.

The money will be well spent. All district programs and spending, including funds from this budget override, will continue to be monitored by the Governing Board consisting of COCSD residents. We provide the supervision that ensures taxpayers are getting the fiscal accountability and academic excellence they deserve. We are proud of our administrative team and teaching staff who have sacrificed salary increases for many years in order to keep the above-named programs for our students. As Governing Board members, we can no longer continue to fund these programs as we have in the past. As the cost of running the school district escalates, from the rise of gasoline prices to sky-rocketing insurance premiums, the 2-percent yearly increase in funding from the state simply does not cover our expenses. Without the passage of the10-percent override, we will be forced to cut special programs for students so that we can meet our fiscal responsibilities.

We urge all citizens to study the issues of the COCSD and Mingus Union High School overrides and help us continue the programs that make our schools excellent. Our investment in great schools will yield a brighter future for our next generation.

Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District Governing Board

Susan Foley, Carol Ebersole, Randall Garrison, Myrna Hillyard, Terry Lay

Community's commitment to children deserves applause


Dr. Daniel Bright Elementary recently held a Family Night Out. The event was designed to give parents information and strategies to help their child succeed in school. The focus of the evening was Reading.

We would like to thank the following organizations for graciously donating to our event; Central Arizona Masonic Lodge #14, Murphy’s Grill, Stombolli’s, Pizza Hut, Cliff Castle Casino, Creekside Family Golf Course, Jeff Cook, Stephen Block, and Judy Gilliam.

Many hours of preparation went into the event, many people volunteered their time and talents. We would like to extend a heart felt thank you to Dr. Kaldenbaugh. He volunteered his time to be our keynote speaker. We would also like to thank Ms. Barbara U’Ren for her presentation on State Testing. And, a special thanks to John Stratz, a CMS student), for volunteering to be the evening’s mascot.

We’d especially like to thank all of the parents who came out in spite of the rain. Yavapai County Health Department (Tobacco Education), Officer Willingham (SRO), Mr. Willingham and the PTO of Dr. Daniel Bright Elementary deserve a round of applause as well. A special thank you to all the staff at Dr. Daniel Bright Elementary School for their dedication to our students and community.

Kathy Epperson


Dr. Daniel Bright Elementary

This was a done deal long before decision was made


"Behind closed doors, a long time ago…."

Reading the Verde Independent, Feb. 25, article "Cliff Rose Rezoning Approved", told me, regardless of planning and zoning multi-page study, endless meetings by the mayor and council members, approval had come far earlier. Otherwise, land design group would never have purchased the 102 acres.

The mayor, his rubber-stamped cronies, except for Frank Sa, who appeared on the side of property owners, and planning and zoning are all drooling over future taxes and do not want to be left out from the population explosion.

The 102 acres is only the beginning for the east and west side of old Jerome Highway, now that its open for re-zoning. Council member Rex Williams had to excuse himself from voting due to a conflict of interest.

I would like it to be known that well after the dust settles on Cliff Rose, and the effects of crumbling walls on low-income housing, disabled cars, diapers littering the streets, and a dimly lit tattoo parlor at the end of a strip mall, the property values on those custom-built original homes plummet, I would expect a reduction in property taxes equal to the de-valuation.

This does not have to be first, and, ultimately depends upon something that the greedy and big developer would never discuss with any intent: water.

Gary O'Sullivan



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