Thu, April 02

Consolidation: Three ballots? Or just one?
Sylvia Allen to present amended SB 1073 Tuesday to Senate Education Committee

Sen. Sylvia  Allen

Sen. Sylvia Allen

PHOENIX – Three ballots? Or one?

That’s what Sen. Sylvia Allen needs to decide before she brings an amended SB 1073 at 2 p.m. Tuesday to Arizona State Senate’s Committee on Education.

Advocates who want to see a merger of the Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek school districts would prefer a one-ballot election in November, with the topic of consolidation answered in one question, and with the votes of the three affected districts, which includes Clarkdale-Jerome, counted one time only.

Should the consolidation question be on three ballots – one for each district’s voters – a district such as Clarkdale-Jerome could have veto power, Phil Terbell and Andy Groseta of the Committee for Better Upper Verde Valley Schools told the Verde Independent on Friday.

But Clarkdale-Jerome should have their voters’ say-so in the consolidation of the Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek school districts, Terbell and Groseta also said.

At 2 p.m. Monday, Groseta has been invited to meet with Sen. Allen and superintendents of the Clarkdale-Jerome, Mingus Union, Cottonwood-Oak Creek, and Valley Academy school districts.

According to Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter, the deputy county attorney “who represents our office was also invited.”

Carter said it is “very important that the legislature and their attorneys, and my office (along with the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office, who advises my office) are on the same page.”

“It would be a very bad thing if the legislature passes a bill, interpreting it one way, while my attorney reads it differently,” Carter said. “We don’t need these types of issues in an election cycle.”

Clarkdale-Jerome Superintendent Danny Brown said that he “appreciate[s] Sen. Allen’s willingness to hold the vote and include language that meets the needs of all districts involved.”

Sen. Allen said Thursday that the consolidation vote should be “counted as a whole.”

“It seems wrong that Clarkdale-Jerome, who do not want to be part of the consolidation and are not part of the consolidation, be able to vote and stop the consolidation, even if the other districts vote to consolidate,” Sen. Allen said. “To me, the fair way is to count all the votes together.”

Brown said the issue is “as clear as mud.”

“Clarkdale-Jerome citizens and property taxpayers are directly impacted by consolidation, even though our governing board voted unanimously not to consolidate with Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek school districts,” Brown said.

It is unclear how Sen. Allen will ultimately write SB 1073. Brown said that if there are “tax implications and representation issues,” the Clarkdale-Jerome district “should have the right to determine if they want to stay in the Mingus Union High School District or not.”

“How that impacts the other districts remains to be seen,” he said.

-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42

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