PHOENIX – Arizona legislators are moving to provide a $1.3 million bailout to a financially troubled school district serving a remote community long dominated by a polygamist sect.
A House committee on Wednesday unanimously endorsed the bill after a state-appointed receiver assured members that the Colorado City Unified School District is under new management and shouldn’t fall under the sect’s sway again.
Receiver Peter Davis said the district needs the state loan largely because members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not paying taxes on property owned by a trust under which church members collectively hold their property.
Solutions include expanding district boundaries so FLDS members no longer constitute a majority of voters. That majority also could slip if more church members leave the area because of possible evictions.
“So they’re left with a choice of either staying in their home and paying their property taxes and disobeying their religious leader or leaving for Texas,” where the FLDS reportedly has set up a compound, Davis said.
Surveys are being conducted to divide large parcels into individual lots for tax purposes so appropriate taxes can be assigned, said Bruce Wisan, who oversees the trust. Wisan said he thinks FLDS members ultimately will pay the taxes owed.