School district consolidation goes to voters

Plan would merge Mingus and Cottonwood-Oak Creek

PHOENIX -- Voters will be asked next year if they want to consolidate the Cottonwood-Oak Creek elementary district with Mingus Union High School District.

Tuesday, members of the state School District Redistricting Commission approved a plan to create a unified K-12 district.

Backers say that a larger district will be more financially efficient and provide better education.

By law, the recommendations of the commission automatically go to the 2008 general election ballot.

The move came after commissioners decided not to also include the Clarkdale-Jerome elementary district in the boundaries of the proposed unified district.

Commission member Rita Leyva, who also is chief deputy of the Yavapai County Education Service Agency, said adding Clarkdale-Jerome to the mix would doom the entire plan. She said there is little interest by residents of the Clarkdale-Jerome district in consolidation.

The system set up by the Legislature requires the approval of a majority of residents in each affected district to take effect.

That means a rejection by Clarkdale-Jerome would kill the entire plan.

Leyva suggested not putting anything at all on the 2008 ballot, perhaps giving more time to come up with something more acceptable. But a majority of the commissioners decided to go ahead with the scaled back version.

If voters in the two affected districts approve unification, that will create changes in the Clarkdale-Jerome district.

Right now, residents pay taxes both to the elementary district and the union high school district. If Mingus union merges with Cottonwood-Oak Creek, then Clarkdale-Jerome will no longer be part of that union district.

They also will no longer pay taxes to that district other than any existing obligations for outstanding bonds. Instead, though, they could find themselves paying higher elementary district taxes, as the Clarkdale-Jerome district now would have to pay tuition to Mingus -- or any other high school district -- where students would want to go to school.

Separately, the commission opted not to proceed with plans to merge the Skull Valley, Hillside, Yarnell and Kirkland elementary districts. Commissioners said while unification is a good idea in theory, this proposed district would not make financial sense without outside help.

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