1/28/2014 11:56:00 AM Editorial: Montezuma-Rimrock, Camp Verde fire districts set good example for rest
of Verde Valley
The decision by the Montezuma-Rimrock and Camp Verde fire districts to share a single fire chief could be the first falling domino to make shared services something more than just a talking point in the Verde Valley.
Camp Verde and Montezuma-Rimrock took a calm and well-reasoned analysis of modern-day fiscal realities before making the decision to have Terry Keller serve as fire chief for both districts.
The economic downturn during the recession stretched budgets in fire districts across the state. With assessed property values diminishing, so have tax revenues to fund fire services. To aggravated the issue, voters in 2012 approved Proposition 117, which limits the growth of property taxes to only 5 percent each year, meaning it could take years to recover lost capacity.
This move on the east side of the Verde Valley should make fire departments and school districts on the west side sit up an take notice.
Merging fire districts, and even Cottonwood's municipal department, has been discussed in the past, but it never really got past the talking stage. Whether it is a debate over a Cottonwood annexation of Verde Village or Verde Santa Fe, the communities always seem to find a way to stub their toes over the fire department issue, and, who would emerge as "the chief" should the communities take the matrimonial plunge. Similarly, discussions about joint services agreements between the Verde Valley and Clarkdale fire districts and the Cottonwood municipal fire department seemed to hit a dead-end street as soon as they began.
On the education front, while Cottonwood-Oak Creek, Mingus Union and Clarkdale-Jerome have made strides on the shared services front, in reality all they have done is stick their toes in the water and collectively agreed that political pot is simmering hot.
Now, though, we have an example of how and why such a government marriage can occur. Camp Verde and Montezuma-Rimrock have faced fiscal realities and made the common-sense decision that best serves their taxpayers.
The lesson for the rest of the Verde Valley is that yes, it can be done, and it is the fiscally responsible thing to do given the increasing financial demands on government today.