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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : latest news : local May 29, 2016

6/27/2013 1:45:00 PM
Override colors shared services struggle
County School Superintendent Tim Carter: In tough economic times, it makes all the sense in the world to unify services. The model is there; its used in counties across the state. We know for a fact that shared services does indeed save funds. VVN/Jon Pelletier
County School Superintendent Tim Carter: In tough economic times, it makes all the sense in the world to unify services. The model is there; its used in counties across the state. We know for a fact that shared services does indeed save funds. VVN/Jon Pelletier

By Yvonne Gonzalez
Staff Reporter

COTTONWOOD - School officials are revisiting the shared services debate at a time when both the Mingus and Cottonwood-Oak Creek districts are asking voters to once again approve 10-percent budget overrides.

County School Superintendent Tim Carter said the two issues can be isolated from, and yet very much related to, one another.

"In tough economic times, it makes all the sense in the world to unify services," Carter said. "The model is there; it's used in counties across the state. We know for a fact that shared services does indeed save funds."

Unification can only come about through the governing boards or voters, who have rejected the idea more than once. Those who oppose consolidating the districts argue it is a loss of local authority, Carter said.

"You're taking away their local control, their authority to talk to their local board, taking away what they see as that independence," he said. "You can maintain all of those governance pieces and still consolidate services, and it'll be basically the same savings."

A report on shared services issued by the Yavapai County Education Service Agency shows, very broadly, where these funds could be saved among not only Mingus and C-OC, but with the Clarkdale-Jerome School District as well.

The report estimates an annual savings of between $80,000 and $160,000 through "bulk buying and storage," but C-OC Business Manager David Snyder said current buying practices already take advantage of bulk discounts, and each district's need for paper, for example, will remain constant regardless of unification.

The real savings would come from consolidating administrative positions. Snyder said recent research into exact amounts to be saved has not been done, but there's no way shared services or unification could make up for the nearly $1.5 million that would be generated if the overrides pass.

Even if $200,000 in administrative costs were eliminated, the override request would stay the same in order to better fund teacher salaries.

"If your whole focus is to save money by unification, it doesn't make sense because you're probably not going to save a lot of money," he said. "The important thing is curriculum alignment so the kids coming from Clarkdale, coming from Oak-Creak, have the same thing going into high school as the kids from the middle school."

Snyder said the community needs to be educated about the benefits of unification as it relates to improving education, not saving money.

"Your boards can say yes, we want to unify, it's in the best interest of taxpayers, students, staff, employees," he said. "Or the community can say that. You'd have to surmise that either we have boards that aren't willing to do that or for whatever reason don't want to go that direction, or there's not good enough voice from the community saying, 'This is what we want.'"

Mingus stands to lose about $560,000 if the override does not pass, and Business Manager Kirk Waddle said there are no other funds to make up for that deficit.

The districts share some services currently, like a special education director, and will continue to share positions with other districts as administrators retire, Waddle said.

"Shared services is just an efficiency step that we're going to take to try to remove any redundancy, but both districts are at such a skeletal level already," he said.

The districts will discuss more ways to share services at a board meeting July 11.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, July 6, 2013
Article comment by: Just for the record

What are the duties of and skill-sets required for school district superintendents?

It's not obvious from articles and editorials I've read in the VI, and certainly not from the comments. A feature on Arizona school structure and hierarchy might help people like me understand the issues involved. Not everyone is involved in public education.

Posted: Monday, July 1, 2013
Article comment by: @ Pix and Chooses

I'm not sure any one person could handle the duties of C-OCSD Superintendent and principle of five elementary campuses. Besides, thems as can already do--no savings there.

And on top of that, without an exceptional administrator, I think combining the very different skill-sets of superintendent and school principal would be penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Posted: Saturday, June 29, 2013
Article comment by: Pix and Chooses

Not so sure this is a super idea. People often forget there are significant upfront and phase-in costs that would eliminate any savings for a year or two. Not to mention the political battles it would introduce. I sure folks pushing this idea mean well, but given the modest savings down the road, I'm not sure it's worth pursuing at this time. Maybe it would be better to push the school boards to combine the principals and superintendents into one position. Seems like the savings would be roughly the same.

Posted: Saturday, June 29, 2013
Article comment by: Mary Heartman

Right. Mingus' recent choice of Superintendent is an excellent example of just how "open" these choices really are.

Posted: Saturday, June 29, 2013
Article comment by: Consolidation of Mingus, Clarkdale-Jerome, & Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District

is the only way to go. Open the Super's job since it will be a new school district and may the best applicant be hired as the Superintendent. Stop the politicking and do what is right for this community,

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