YARNELL, Ariz. — The school district that serves this community northwest
of Phoenix is struggling with declining property values and student enrollment
after the Yarnell Hill Fire killed 19 firefighters and destroyed more than 100
homes last year.
The Model Creek School, the only one in the Yarnell Elementary School District,
had a $150,000 budget deficit, Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter
The district’s governing board recently approved a $2 tax rate increase for
some homes to help offset the losses, the Daily Courier reported Tuesday. The state also has reduced funding because the school
has fewer students.
Carter said property values have dropped by about $17 million since the
wildfire broke out in June 2013. The lightning-sparked blaze killed 19 members
of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, destroyed 127 homes in and around Yarnell and
scorched 13 square miles.
“Before the fire was all the way contained, we told people that Yarnell was
going to have this problem,” Carter said. “Two things happen in a situation
like this: property values go down and people leave the area.”
The district has cut employees’ hours and salaries and pared back art, music,
physical education and sports programs. It’s also considering a four-day school
schedule to save money.
The Model Creek School has four teachers, one administrator and eight staff
members. Six of those employees are part time.
Principal Fred Garnett said the district’s governing board voted to fund the
school for another year, but the budget will remain tight.
“You can look at consolidation, you can look at unification, and you can look
at lapsing the district. All of those things have positives and negatives,” he
said. “There were people who said to close the school and eliminate the
district. You can’t do that under law.”
Information from: The Daily Courier, http://www.dcourier.com