Unification: "Lawsuit waiting to happen'

Would unify two districts but would create new one

VVN/Philip Wright<br>
Tim Carter, Yavapai County School Superintendent, spoke Thursday night in the County Board of Supervisors chambers in Cottonwood. Carter gave a presentation and answered questions about the upcoming vote on whether to unify Mingus Union High School and Cottonwood-Oak Creek School districts into a single district.

VVN/Philip Wright<br> Tim Carter, Yavapai County School Superintendent, spoke Thursday night in the County Board of Supervisors chambers in Cottonwood. Carter gave a presentation and answered questions about the upcoming vote on whether to unify Mingus Union High School and Cottonwood-Oak Creek School districts into a single district.

Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter presented the facts of unification Thursday night in Cottonwood. The first words out of his mouth were that he was there only to present the facts, not his opinion.

But the facts present a confusing, convoluted story. More questions than answers.

Voters in the Mingus Union High School, the Clarkdale-Jerome Elementary School and the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School districts will decide Nov. 4 whether MUHS and C-OC districts should be unified into a single district.

Seems like a straightforward ballot question. But the law of unintended consequences also seems to be a major player in this question.

In 2005 the State Legislature created the School District Redistricting Commission, a special task force to look into consolidating or unifying some school districts in Arizona. The SDRC recommended that voters in 78 school districts decide whether to consolidate or not.

One of those recommended unifications was to bring together MUHS, C-OC and Clarkdale-Jerome districts. Carter explained that the SDRC ultimately removed Clarkdale-Jerome from the mix because it felt that voters in that district were certain to turn thumbs down on the question.

There are two ballot questions that must be voted on for unification to happen. That's when the jumble of results - both intended and unintended - come into play.

Carter said that if Ballot Question No. 1 fails, then the whole unification question dies. "Everything stays the way it is," Carter said.

If Question No. 1 passes, then MUHS district will dissolve. When that happens Cottonwood-Oak Creek District gets a new high school district and Clarkdale-Jerome gets a new high school district.

If Question No. 1 passes, then Question No. 2 comes into play. That question, Carter said, amounts to "Shall we unify." If Question No. 2 passes, Carter said C-OC then becomes a kindergarten through 12th grade district.

"We'll end up with three districts," Carter said. "They will just be different districts."

Those three districts, Carter pointed out, would be C-OC, which would be K-12, Clarkdale-Jerome, which would remain a K-8 district, and a new Clarkdale High School district.

Carter said no one knows yet what will happen to MUHS once it dissolves. He said one potential lawsuit that he and the Yavapai County Attorney feel could happen is that taxpayers in Clarkdale-Jerome District will expect to receive a fair division of MUHS's assets. He said those taxpayers have paid into MUHS for years.

"The county attorney and I think it is a lawsuit waiting to happen," Carter said.

In addition to a fight over the assets of Mingus Union, Carter said the new C-OC K-12 district would lose Phoenix Cement from its tax base. Clarkdale-Jerome Elementary, and the new Clarkdale-Jerome High School districts would keep the plant in their tax base.

That could cause taxpayers in C-OC District to see an increase in property taxes.

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