Thu, April 02

School district consolidation bill awaits Gov. Ducey’s signature

Sen. Sylvia  Allen

Sen. Sylvia Allen

PHOENIX -- With a 17-13 party line vote Tuesday, the Arizona Senate passed the consolidation bill known as SB 1073.

The final stop before the bill becomes law – the governor’s desk.

Should Doug Ducey sign the legislation into law, SB 1073 would provide clear guidance for the Committee for Better Upper Verde Valley Schools as it seeks a merger of the Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union school districts.

Andy Groseta, whose pro-consolidation committee first approached the upper Verde Valley’s school districts in early 2017 about consolidating, said he is “much appreciative of Senator [Sylvia] Allen’s efforts in sponsoring SB 1073.”

A bone of contention in the consolidation discussions the past year had been the districts’ partnership with the community’s career and technical education program, Valley Academy of Career and Technology Education.

SB 1073 allows the successor school district “that results from that unification or consolidation” would continue to be a Valley Academy member in the same manner as the former school districts. Resolving the Valley Academy issue was “very important to all of us,” Groseta said.

Whereas Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union each has separate representation on the Valley Academy’s district governing board, the consolidated district would have one member seat on the board.

SB 1073 also originally sought a single-canvas vote from the Mingus Union, Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Clarkdale-Jerome districts. It ultimately was determined there would be three separate ballots for the voters in each individual district based on an interpretation of existing state law on school district consolidation found in Arizona Revised Statute 15-459.

Although a draft of SB 1073 also stated that $50,000 would be set aside to help offset transition costs of a new unified district, the appropriation language was removed at the request of the Senate Appropriations Chair but the amount for transition cost would be included in the budget, according to Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter.

“Hopefully, this week or next, the bill will be finalized,” Carter said.

-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42

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