An effort to recall two of the three-member Clifton School Board is rolling. Clifton School District resident Tammy McWhinney has confirmed that she is launching the recall effort.
McWhinney included the recall in her comments made at the Greenlee County Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday, Aug. 5. McWhinney, who lives in Verde Lee, was among the most vocal opponents of a huge tax increase approved by the Clifton School Board at a July 5 meeting.
Despite strong objections from a standing-room-only crowd, Board President Adam Chacon and member Reynaldo Tavison voted for the increase. Member Robert Gomez voted no and has since resigned from the board. Retired educator Luis Montoyas was appointed to fill the vacancy.
The strongest objections came from retirees who said they live on fixed incomes and for some it will be a matter of having to decide to pay for medication and other critical needs or pay their property taxes.
Despite the anger and frustration among audience members, Chacon and Tavison voted to raise property taxes by 110 to 200 percent.
During her address to the Board of Supervisors, McWhinney said she is also moving forward on action to close the school, which at the end of the last school year, had less than 50 students, grades K-12. She said she has encountered frustration in dealing with some state officials regarding the situation at Clifton Schools.
McWhinney said that in one phone call alone she had to speak with six different people because whomever she asked for information could not provide her with an answer and passed her off to someone else – who also could not provide her with an answer.
She confirmed that she has started the process to recall Tavison and Chacon, although she did not mention them by name. However, she is at present dealing with details before fully launching the recall effort. The actual recall petitions are quite different than the informal petitions that have been present at some local businesses. The recall documents must include more information about the signator and upon completion must be notarized.
McWhinney said the informal petitions were a way to gauge public sentiment about the Clifton School Board’s tax increase. She said everyone with who she has spoken finds it highly unfavorable if not outright “reprehensible.”
She said of the informal petitions, “These petitions are not legally binding. They were circulated to make a point.”
She continued, “There is a school district here that thought it was a great idea to have a major budget increase of $385,958, bringing their budget up to $976,365. This is a school that had 47 students from K through 12 last year.”
McWhinney said, “We have signed these petitions to show the legislature and whomever can do something about the small-school statute that it is reprehensible that a school board is so powerful that it can raise the school tax as high as the sky and get away with it.”
District 1 County Supervisor David Gomez said he is among those who strongly oppose the school district’s tax hike. However, as a supervisor he is powerless to takke any action against it.
Earlier in the meeting, County Attorney Derek Rapier explained that neither the county nor the county school superintendent have any authority over a school board when that board sets its budget. Rapier said the only time county officials have input or a vote is when a school district seeks to revise its budget due to an increase in enrollment.
“Yeah, like that’s going to happen,” an audience member cynically remarked to the person sitting next to him.
McWhinney encouraged everyone in the supervisors’ meeting audience to contact Department of Education officials, state legislators, the State Attorney General’s Office and anyone else in state government for assistance to repeal the law allowing schools with enrollments of less that 125 to set their own budgets without input or approval from the public.
At present, it appears the only recourse available to repeal the tax is to have the school board meeting declared invalid because of possible violations of the state Open Meeting Law. Montoya said at the July 5 meeting he intended to file an Open Meeting Law violation complaint with the Attorney General’s Office. He has subsequently said he has filed that complaint.