If the Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek districts were to consolidate into one district, the Clarkdale-Jerome School District would not be a part of the district.
Though Clarkdale-Jerome would not merge with Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek, Clarkdale-Jerome Superintendent Danny Brown said last week that his district will begin its “due diligence researching the ramifications that consolidation between Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union High School District will have on our students, families and our taxpayers.”
“We will work with the YCESA, the districts involved and others to determine relevant impacts and present the information so our constituents can make an informed decision prior to the election,” Brown said.
Clarkdale-Jerome stands behind decision to not merge
It was May 2017 when the Clarkdale-Jerome School Board said ‘no’ to being part of a proposed merger, a position Board President Jill Zaske recently said she will “firmly stand behind.”
“Without question, [not being part of a consolidation] was and remains what is best for us,” Zaske said.
Just because Clarkdale-Jerome is not part of the merger doesn’t mean the school district isn’t affected by it.
Which is why Zaske said the school board looks forward to “current non-biased third-party information so that we can start the process of determining how this will affect Clarkdale-Jerome’s students, families, employees, community members and tax payers.”
That information, despite months of meetings by the fact-finding group known as the Advisory Committee for Consolidation, will come from Yavapai County Schools Superintendent Tim Carter.
Should an election be called, Carter said that his office, “by statute will prepare a publicity pamphlet, which will provide the answers to all for the questions that appear as requirements within that statute.”
“People are throwing around information as facts, much of which is not true,” Carter said. “I have said on many occasions, I do not have a personal position on what should happen with this issue; that is completely up to the voters. However, it would be a sad day if people made decisions, whatever they might be, based on false and misleading information.”
School district boundaries
According to Page 6 of the House Engrossed SB 1254 – passed on May 16 – Mingus Union would merge into the Cottonwood-Oak Creek district boundaries. This would leave Clarkdale-Jerome geographically out of the new district.
This is why Clarkdale-Jerome homeowners would then pay one tax rate instead of the two tax rates they currently pay.
SB 1254 can be found at https://legiscan.com/AZ/text/SB1254/2018.
Understanding the tax issues
It was in February 2017 when former Mingus Union School Board member Andy Groseta first asked the Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union districts to consider merging into one district as a way of saving money that could be funneled back into the classrooms.
Groseta recently said that in his “understanding regarding the tax issues,” the tax implications for a new unified district and Clarkdale-Jerome “should be minimal.”
Currently, Clarkdale-Jerome property owners pay taxes to both the Mingus Union and Clarkdale-Jerome school districts.
If Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus were to consolidate, Clarkdale-Jerome homeowners would only pay taxes to their own district. Clarkdale-Jerome Business Manager Kristy Aston said that what property owners pay “would increase to include the cost of tuition for the high school students.”
Aston also said that Clarkdale-Jerome students would pay tuition “for all students attending [the new district’s high school] that live within our district boundaries, not just for its incoming high school students.”
“We would not be responsible for students promoted from Clarkdale-Jerome School that live in the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District,” Aston said. “We will work with Mingus to determine which students live within our boundaries.”
Though Aston said she doesn’t know yet “if that number would be higher or lower than the combined tax rate,” her “guess is that it should be fairly close in total.”
According to SB 1254, Clarkdale-Jerome would pay tuition to send its high school students to Mingus Union High School, just as it would if it sent any of its high schoolers to either Sedona Red Rock or Camp Verde high schools.
“The Unified School District shall admit high school pupils who reside in a common school district that was located within the boundaries of the former union high school district,” according to page 6 of SB 1254.
At this time, Clarkdale-Jerome School District does not know how much in tuition it would pay a merged district of Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union school districts, both Brown and Aston said.
-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42