Tue, May 21

School districts take wait-and-see stance on divison of Assets

What's yours is mine and what's mine is mine.

When it comes to the division of assets between Clarkdale-Jerome School District and the future unified district of Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek, what C-J taxpayers view as "theirs" is subject to debate.

With opposing opinions disclosed by two attorneys and the absence of an administrative agreement between the districts, there is little to clarify the controversial issue.

According to attorney Tom Pickrell, formerly of the Arizona School Board Association, the only thing residents of the C-J District have a right to call their own is access. "What they receive is the unconditional right to send students to the high school," he said.

Pickrell explained that during the composition of the new legislation on unification, no discussion was deemed necessary regarding the need or right for a division of assets.

Attorney Mireya Martin of Quarles & Brady disagrees.

In a letter to Mingus Principal John Christensen, she states, "Clarkdale can require that a division of assets takes place if it votes not to unify."

Martin concurs with Pickrell regarding the statute's lack of direction on asset division, but instead of disregarding the issue she recommends negotiation.

"Until ARS 15-448 is amended to provide for asset division between districts, Clarkdale and Mingus should enter into an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) to determine how to divide up assets," she stated.

The issue for Clarkdale-Jerome Superintendent Bill Kelly is simply dollars and cents.

"What I'm looking for is information," he explained. "If you're going on the assessed value or historic value. I want to know how you determine the value."

C-OC Superintendent John Tavasci said he's open-minded.

"It's kind of up to Clarkdale right now," he said. "If they want to decide how and where and that kind of thing, I'm sure the new unified board would be interested. But I can't speak for them."

He also hasn't discussed the issue with current board members.

"I haven't asked them about the division of assets," he said. "Right now I'm waiting to here from Clarkdale."

So far, Kelly hasn't picked up the phone.

"They have the opportunity to come down and resolve this issue," said Kelly. "They could say we could work this out or they could say they're not going to work this out."

Meanwhile Kelly intends to seek legal opinions, review the law regarding asset divisions and consult his own school board.

"Right now my main thrust is to get school started. The issue is going to be here in two weeks."

For now, Kelly has decided on a cautious approach.

"My decision is to determine if consolidation is going to be successful," he said. "They still have a board election."

In November, a total of six seats are available on the Mingus and Cottonwood-Oak Creek School Boards.

According to Martin, the new C-OC school board could rescind last week's resolution to create a K-12 unified district with the Mingus Union High School District.