As much as a quarter billion dollars in school funding just in the West Valley is on the line.
And the deadline for the Nov. 5 election is soon approaching.
The West Valley is far from alone. Voters in nearly half the school districts in Maricopa County received ballots asking them to decide on school funding.
“School districts are authorized to issue negotiable bonds for the purpose of acquiring a project or projects,” explained Maricopa County School Superintendent, Steve Watson. Funds are raised by a tax increases on properties within the district.
Budget overrides, according to Watson, “occur when voters in a school district adopt a budget in excess of their revenue control limit.”
The Avondale Elementary and Littleton Elementary school districts are asking for overrides. The Buckeye Elementary, Saddle Mountain Unified, Tolleson Union High School and the Agua Fria Union High School districts seek voter approval for bonds.
The amounts of the bonds and overrides:
• Agua Fria Union High School District, $55 million.
• Avondale Elementary School District, the lesser of $1.9 million or 10% of the District’s revenue control limit for capital purposes.
• Buckeye Elementary School District, $54 million.
• Littleton Elementary School District, 15% override, $5.1 million.
• Saddle Mountain Unified School District, $47.5 million.
• Tolleson Union High School District, $125 million.
According to information at the Tolleson Union High School website, the bond is to “construct, improve, equip and furnish school buildings and/or to purchase student transportation or other vehicles.
“The estimated average annual tax rate for the proposed bond authorization is $0.69 per $100 of net assessed valuation used for secondary property tax purposes.”
While one is an override and the other a bond, both the Avondale Elementary and Agua Fria Union High School districts requests are to “enhance safety and security.”
The Avondale Elementary override also would use funds to upgrade technology and school facilities.
According to the district’s website, the override is to “Add and enhance safety and security infrastructure and equipment.”
The district said the override would also allow the district to upgrade technology, such as
• Digital curriculum hardware and software.
• Student curriculum and computer programing devices.
• Classroom and instructional materials.
And the override would allow the district to renovate and improve school facilities equipment, furniture and fixtures and “purchase pupil transportation vehicles.”
If the override does not pass, “The district would be unable to enhance safety and security throughout our campuses. We would also be unable to offer the most current technology to our students and instructional resources would not align to new curriculum standards. Additionally, the district would be unable to replace older school buses.”
The district estimates the override would cost the average homeowner $4.53 per month.
According to the Buckeye Elementary School District website, “A Citizens Committee review and a lack of needed funding from the State, the Buckeye Elementary School District Governing Board has called for a $54 million school improvement bond election.”
The money is targeted for renovations, upgrades and additions.
Renovation projects at each school may include:
• Entry area upgrades for safety and security.
• Outdoor learning spaces.
• Science and Technology labs.
• Fine Arts performance spaces.
Technology expenditures at the Buckeye district would include purchasing individual technology devices for teachers and students and upgrading technology infrastructure to support instructional technology.
The Buckeye Elementary School District would also construct two schools:
• John S. McCain III Elementary School, projected to open fall of 2021.
• School No. 9, projected to open by fall 2024.
According to the website, “New facilities will expand the capacity of the district, relieving enrollment pressure on the other schools.
“This Bond will provide the district with the opportunity to utilize supplemental funding from the Arizona School Facilities Board which would pay for approximately half of School No. 9.”
At Agua Fria Union High School District, the bond would fund a replacement gymnasium for Goodyear’s Millennium High and improve school security.
There would also be improvements to the district’s transportation system.
Additionally, according to a Bond Fact Sheet at aguafria.org, “If approved, the bond will provide:
• Safety and security improvements.
• Air conditioning and HVAC systems.
• Building renovations and new construction.
• Site maintenance and campus Improvements.
The bond would also fund a replacement gymnasium for Goodyear’s Millennium High.
Millennium is also in need of a replacement gymnasium which was requested to be updated in the previous bond needs in 2010-11 only to be pushed back 10 years to this current cycle based on other instructional priorities and overcrowding at that time,” states the summary.
For more, see the “2019 Bond Fact Sheet” at aguafria.org.
Mike Shepard, executive director of Support Services for Agua Fria Union High School District, noted a Bond Planning Committee several times over the winter and spring “to identify district needs and prioritize projects.”
More than 50 students, teachers, staff and parents took part in the committee.