Wed, Feb

The Camp Verde Sanitary District issued a surprise announcement at the end of a heated public hearing July 9: The tax levied on district homeowners will actually go down this year.

Instead of the worst-case scenario feared by many district residents, CVSD announced a fiscal year 2008-09 budget that covers all of the district’s spending, about $950,000 for FY2008-09, at a cost of $2.23 per $100 in assessed value, an $.08 reduction in the tax compared to FY2007-08.

The assessed value of a home, its “full cash value,” is normally less than its market value. Assessed value is the value of real property as determined by the Yavapai County Assessor each year.

Under the FY2008-09 budget, a district residence with assessed value of $200,000 will receive a property tax bill of $464 for sewer, about $16 less than last year.

The budget was approved 4-0. Board member Ben Bueler was absent.
“I’ve got to congratulate you,” former CVSD chairwoman Suzy Burnside said. “You’ve done some excellent work here.”

A draft budget published by CVSD prior to the hearing suggested the CVSD tax rate for FY2008-09 could go as high as $6.09 per $100 in assessed value.

That had a lot of residents hopping mad, including some who said they would lose their homes to foreclosure if the tax was imposed.

About 50 people showed up for the public hearing at the Community Center July 9 to express their frustration.

The CVSD board sat in the hot humidity of the hearing room for more than an hour, but board members kept their cool as speaker after speaker rose to attack their competence and integrity.

“People who live in Camp Verde are living right on the edge,” district resident Jim Ash told the board. “If this [tax levy of $6.09 per $100 in assessed value], goes through, houses won’t sell. Nobody will want to live here. We need a different approach on this.”

“I protest this thing,” district resident Pat Davis said. “If this thing goes through, I’m going to lose my house.”

The budget adopted by the board arrived shortly before the meeting and was made known to the public for the first time during the hearing. Many in the audience left the hearing once the actual budget became known.

Those who stayed wondered why the board waited so long to announce the good news.

CVSD Board Chairman Greg Freeman explained that the reason for publishing a worst-case scenario budget was due to uncertainty about the actual cost to the district of fixing problems that arose in the last year with the sewer line expansion and wastewater treatment plant construction.
“We waited as long as we could to get a handle on those costs,” Board Member Rob Witt said.

Vice Mayor Brenda Hauser choked back tears and Councilman Ron Smith declared he would not run for another term during a discussion of small town ethics at the Camp Verde Town Council meeting July 2.

The discussion arose after Councilman Bob Kovacovich and Councilwoman Norma Garrison asked to clarify the town manager’s role as chief executive officer of the Town of Camp Verde.

Contradictory language in the Town Code identified both the town manager and the mayor as chief executive.

Camp Verde has a council-manager form of government. In the council-manager form, council establishes policy for the town manager to execute. The mayor serves primarily as a figurehead with no more authority or voting power than any other council member.

The mayor’s role came under scrutiny after Mayor Tony Gioia personally negotiated with the Camp Verde Sanitation District in June despite a special committee established by the council for that purpose.

“I do know these basic principles,” Councilman Charlie German said. “The basic principle is if I go out there and speak to anyone, I have to do so as an individual and I cannot speak for the rest of the council.”

“I also know that if there are specific committees that are dealt with, then the protocol would be that those committees or liaisons, seems to me, have been established by the council and therefore that protocol should be followed,” German said.

German complained the current Camp Verde code of conduct fails to provide adequate guidance on the issue.

Garrison agreed. She said she was asking for changes to the town’s ethics code so council members now and in the future can be better guided in how to conduct themselves.

“You know, this isn’t personal,” Garrison said. “This is business. I’ve watched council for years struggle. Now I understand the struggle. It’s because [the code of ethics] is clear as mud.”

After reviewing conduct codes from Payson and Parker, the council directed town staff to modify the Town of Parker Code of Conduct for Elected Officials to insert some Camp Verde-specific changes to the Parker code.

“They don’t leave any stones unturned on how to police themselves,” Garrison said.

Council nearly decided to spend money on an attorney and a relationships council to draft a new code from scratch at the urging of Councilman Greg Elmer, but a Camp Verde resident said she didn’t think much of the expenditure.

“I don’t understand why you can’t get together and you can’t look at something from a Payson or Parker and you can’t sit down and figure this out,” Nancy Floyd said.

“Why do we always have to get an expert for everything?” Kovacovich asked.

Smith made a motion to adopt the Parker code and also asked for other changes, including a limit of two terms for the mayor and council members.
Hauser, who has served as mayor, vice mayor and councilwoman for more than a decade, appeared upset at the idea.

“I won’t vote for that,” she said, struggling to contain her emotions. “I owe everything to this town.”

Greg Ruland can be reached at 282-7795, Ext. 127, or e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Camp Verde’s got some money problems. That much is certain. Faced with sales tax revenue dropping off by as much as 25 percent, the town has had to tighten the purse strings.

That also means the town has had to redirect where it spends its money. For the past several years, Camp Verde has been funneling a portion of its sales tax into certain funds, setting aside one cent of the tax collected to be divided into 60 percent for capital projects and 40 percent for the park fund.

Late last month, the council voted 6-1 to change its priorities. The 60/40 split, once mandatory, has now been restated as a “goal to pursue,” said Town Manager Michael Scannell. Now some of that money will be redirected to pay for more immediate, pressing needs for the town as they arise.

“Quite frankly, the only way that we were able to preserve the integrity of the general fund this year was to radically alter these allocations,” Scannell said.

Councilman Ron Smith cast the lone “no” vote, citing concerns he’s heard from members of the community that it was important to keep money flowing into the park fund.

“They just thought, ‘why is that being messed with?’ ... and kind of the argument was, you know, we were sold a bill of goods that we would increase sales tax one percent so we could forever set aside 40 percent to the park,” Smith said. “The point they were making was, ‘Is this how government works?’ ... You have something and say it’s going to be that way, and then you get down the road and change it.”

Smith suggested that while he understood the tough financial decisions facing the town, the council could put a sunset on the decision to change the tax allocation, possibly reverting back to the 60/40 split in three years.

Scannell said that keeping the general fund healthy required the council to make difficult choices, but that Camp Verde was hardly alone.

When looking to the future and what professions will be needed, teaching joins others like nursing and computer professionals.

Mingus Union High School looked at the need and added a new course of study to its Career and Technology Education offerings — Education Professions — for 2008-09. The new course is the 11th offered through the school’s successful CTE program.

“We seek out programs with a baccalaureate aspect. One is our certified nursing assistant program. They can graduate with their CNA and work in a hospital or doctor’s office, and with the background they get they can enter a nursing program,” CTE director Ralph Fobair said.

It is like getting a foot in the door, he said.

According to information Fobair received, Arizona State University is graduating fewer teachers than need to be coming out of college.

“Then add in retirement and we’ll have a shortage of teachers. Even with the slowdown in the economy we’ll still need teachers,” Fobair said.

Education professions grew from a Future Teachers of America club in the Peoria Unified School District in the Phoenix area in 1999 to help address the growing need for teachers, and to provide service-learning experiences.

The essential element is school-based instruction reinforced by extensive field experience. The program will give students the opportunity to explore teaching as a career option. They gain a realistic understanding of education, the role of the teacher and develop leadership skills, Fobair said.

“Because this is a work-based experience with the option to be mentored by people working in the field, a light comes on for the students and they realize, ‘Hey, I can do this,’” he said. “A lot of our CTE students don’t always see college as an option.”

Approximately two-thirds of Mingus students in any given year take at least one CTE class.

With the help of Mingus Principal Marc Cooper and some other staff members, Fobair found out about the program. Along with the program is a Future Educators of American organization. Fobair hopes to establish a new chapter at Mingus.

“You want opportunities in high school, and that’s what this is. It shows them there’s a lot more out there. All of our programs do,” Fobair said.

In December, Mingus’ governing board approved the addition of the education professions program. The students will learn leadership and interpersonal skills, experience work-based learning and preparation for careers in education — to start on the path of becoming a teacher.

“We’ll expand our agreement with Dr. Daniel Bright [Elementary School] like we have with early childhood education. When they finish here, granted, they won’t be teachers, but they will have a step up to get into their degree path,” Fobair said.

A proposed budget that could conceivably more than double the tax rate in the Camp Verde Sanitary District is being looked at as a “worst case scenario,” said District Chairman Gregg Freeman.

A structural failure that crippled construction on a new wastewater treatment plant in January was found to be the fault of the engineers who signed off on the plans, Phoenix-based Coe and Van Loo, according to an independent engineering analysis.

The district is actively involved in negotiations with Coe and Van Loo to get the engineering firm to pay for the repairs, Freeman said. While the company has agreed in principle to pay for most of the costs, executives still have some questions about who else should throw in for the tab. Most recently, Coe and Van Loo figures their share to be somewhere between $1.3 million and $1.5 million.

Repairs will cost $1.98 million, according to the most recent budget estimates, and would put total district expenses at around $2.65 million, more than double the current year’s projected spending budget. With property in the district valued at nearly $40 million, taxes were assessed at $2.31 per $100 of value, including a levy to fund the district’s debt obligations.

The tank failure has already pushed back the plant’s construction by at least six to seven months, and the negotiations over liability are occurring in the midst of budget season, when the district is required by law to approve a balanced budget.

Hopefully, Freeman said, all sides will reach an agreement before the budget has to be made final. Until then, however, the district has to look at the possibility of absorbing the cost for the plant repairs and, if they refuse to pay, taking Coe and Van Loo to court for reimbursement.

If the “worst case scenario” were to come to pass, taxes would have to be raised to $4.99 per $100 of value to make up the difference in the upcoming fiscal year. That doesn’t include a proposed debt reduction levy of nearly $1.10, which would, in effect, raise sewer taxes to almost $6.09 per $100 of valuation.

That means that the owner of a home assessed at $200,000 who paid $4,620 in sewer taxes last year, would pay $12,180 this year.

Freeman said the district board was doing everything it could to make sure that scenario doesn’t occur.

Public school systems don’t typically operate a charter school program, but the numbers are increasing every year. Soon, the Camp Verde Unified School District may join that growing list.

The school board gave its approval last week to begin the process of applying for three separate charters. The requests would ultimately have to be approved by the Arizona Charter School Board, said Superintendent Jeff Van Handel, and board member Andrea Wrubel wanted assurances that the board could back out if it wanted to.

The idea is that smaller schools, like most of those in the district, could eventually receive a financial boost from the state, Van Handel said.

If the plan is approved and implemented as soon as possible, the district wouldn’t see a benefit until the 2010-11 school year, Van Handel said.

The three possibilities include two “schools within a school” options and the potential construction of a new charter school on 10 acres of land in the proposed Simonton Ranch development.

Owner Scott Simonton has been open to the idea of giving the school board first crack at the land if they are willing to actually build a school on the property, Van Handel said.

That school, which would start out small, possibly kindergarten to fourth grade, before eventually expanding up to eighth grade, is a candidate for the International Baccalaureate program, a special pre-university program taught by more than 2,000 schools worldwide.

Of course, whether or not a charter school of that nature is feasible in Camp Verde is speculation, Van Handel said. A marketing study would have to be done.

One of the other ideas is for a chartered college prep program at South Verde High School to be taught alongside the school’s technical education courses.

Finally, the board is considering a dual-language charter program for Camp Verde Elementary School.

The program would immerse young children in both Spanish and English, the idea being that it’s far easier to learn a second language when a person is young, Van Handel said.

Also, Van Handel said that studies have shown that native Spanish and English speakers become much more effective at peer tutoring when they understand each other’s language.

There are some disadvantages to charter schools. While there could be a financial gain, charter schools aren’t required to provide transportation like a public school and therefore don’t receive any funding for it.

The initial paperwork is due Wednesday, June 25, Van Handel said.

A power outage at Wal-Mart Sunday sent several customers away from the Cottonwood supercenter without their purchases.

The power went down around 5:10 p.m. Sunday, June 15. The outage lasted for about two hours, until APS returned the power around 7 p.m. Meanwhile, employees ushered customers out of the doors and scrambled to cover the refrigerated cases in the grocery section.

“It caused us big problems here. We had to close the store down,” Store Manager Jason Ferris said.

As near as could be figured, Ferris said the problem was something with the store’s electrical box.

“APS couldn’t explain it. It could have been a number of things,” he said
Gari Basham, with APS, said that when their representative looked at the metering equipment at the back of the building, the box was unlocked. He found the main switch had been tripped, which shut off the power to the entire building.

“It was like somebody just shut it off. We could find no reason for the breaker to have tripped. There was no storm, nor excessive heat,” Basham, who was inside the Wal-Mart when the power went out, he said.

He did say the serviceman told him while he was working he saw two teenage boys sitting on the guardrail above the equipment drinking soda pop and watching him, but did not think anything of it at the time.

“It was curious to have those two boys sitting there watching,” Basham said.

The serviceman fitted the equipment with an APS lock and Wal-Mart attached its own lock.

“Even small companies need to secure their service equipment. We don’t want this to happen again,” Basham said.

While APS worked on the power supply, the open refrigeration cases inside the store, like dairy and meats, were covered with plastic and cardboard to keep the cool in, and the doors on the freezer cases were kept closed.

“We do training in how to do this quickly in case the power shuts down. When those cases are covered like that, they last approximately four hours. On the freezers, we couldn’t let our customers open them so we had to kick them out,” Ferris said.

After the power returned, Ferris said, the employees checked the food in all of the cases and it was still cold enough.

“There was no product loss — just loss of sales and inconvenience to our customers,” Ferris said.

He was not sure exactly how many customers were in the store at the time. The store reopened a few minutes after the power was restored.

Lu Stitt can be reached at 634-8551 or e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Camp Verde Town Council pulled out the budget knife last week and made some difficult decisions in an attempt to balance the budget for the upcoming 2008-09 fiscal year.

The new budget is about one million dollars less than last year’s proposed budget, an economic necessity in a town that depends on sales tax for much of its revenue.

Council members are already accustomed to tightening the purse strings.
The slowing economy has reduced sales tax revenue nearly 25 percent, a fact that in part forced the council to cut $1.8 million from the current year’s budget.

The new $5.3 million budget is nearly balanced, but at a cost. After several meetings and looking at what the council felt needed to be funded next year, there was a nearly $430,000 gap left to fill.

After meeting with town department heads, Town Manager Michael Scannell came up with a list of recommendations that the town council seemed to agree with. The town must approve a balanced budget by June 30, the last day of the 2007-08 fiscal year.

Notable casualties on the chopping block included funding for a new library.

While a recently formed non-profit organization is raising money for a larger modern library, it had hoped to take advantage of some town funds.

Library Director Gerry Laurito had shot for the moon with a request of $4 million, trimmed to $200,000 after Scannell looked at the budget. But with the new numbers in, Scannell said the town just couldn’t afford to spend money on something that wasn’t absolutely necessary.

The same went for the hopes of a new animal shelter, which saw $100,000 in proposed construction funding slashed from the town’s capital improvements fund.

It’s time to cinch the belt Scannell said, but it’s also time for the town to face the facts and plan for its long-term goals given the economic reality.

That reality means that some aspects of providing services will have to suffer in the interim, Scannell said, citing town streets. It would cost $1 million a year to simply keep the town’s 100 miles of road, Scannell said. This year, the town can only afford $675,000, including money for fixing roads torn up by the current sewer expansion project. It’s a situation Scannell called “very problematic.”

“It’s my opinion that the town of Camp Verde faces an economic struggle with declining revenues,” Scannell told the council. “I think we ought to engage in strategic planning as soon as possible for the long term.”
Town departments make sacrifices

To help fill the budget hole, many town departments agreed to give up some of their funding. The Parks and Recreation Department gave up $10,500 for new software and the Camp Verde Marshall’s Office cut out $15,000 for new evidence lockers.

The pool will be cutting back hours, closing at 6 p.m. instead of 8 p.m., and closing entirely on Mondays, if the council approves the budget.

Travel costs were reduced, along with funding for office supplies, furniture and training, although Scannell said he didn’t feel comfortable cutting back too much on training expenses.

“[Cutting training] is not the best option,” Scannell said. “[Our employees] invest in us and we should invest in them … but there’s just no funding.”
There may be cut backs in training, but Scannell said his number one priority when coming up with proposed cuts was to avoid laying off staff at all costs.

In fact, Scannell recommends putting money in the budget to hire a consultant to look at town employees and come back with recommendations that could bring their salaries in line with other municipalities in the region.

Town employees did not receive a cost of living raise last year, Scannell said, and keeping salaries competitive is important when a town is trying to attract and retain the most qualified people for the job.

“To maintain the esprit de corps, it is critical to avoid layoffs,” Scannell said. “ … It’s fitting and proper to compensate our employees fairly.”

Sewer questions

While the budget seems nearly balanced, the council might soon have to look for another $25,000 to $30,000 in cuts if it agrees to partially fund a new administrator for the Camp Verde Sanitary District.

The town, under an existing agreement with the district, was already supposed to be managing the day-to-day affairs of the district.

But after a series of unforeseen derailments, the town and district haven’t been able to come to a new agreement. The district had hoped to have the town pay for a portion of the salary for a sewer administrator, which at first seemed off the table after the town’s most recent budget meeting.

“We’ve had a revised [inter-governmental agreement] on the table since [January] and we haven’t heard one word,” Councilmember Ron Smith said. “At this point, it’s water under the bridge. We’ve got our own problems right now. It’s too little too late. There’s a time for everything and theirs’ has past.”

While other council members seemed to agree at the time, the door was left open at a special Sanitary District Board meeting last week when Councilmember Norma Garrison, council liaison to the district, told the district board that the town council would need something in writing from the district before making any decisions.

District Chairman Gregg Freeman said he understood that the council had agreed in principal to fund a portion of an administrator’s salary.

Whatever the town council decides, they will need a new liaison to the sanitary district. Garrison resigned from that position the next day.

Mark Lineberger can be reached at 567-3341, or e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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