Twenty-one school districts in Maricopa County recently asked voters to OK school funding measures totaling more than $500 million. But voters only approved about half of the requests in the Nov. 2 election.
In the West Valley, a vast majority of school districts on the ballot failed to get their funding measures approved, with only two of seven receiving a “yes” from voters.
Overrides allow a school district to increase their maintenance and operations budget up to 15%, while bonds provide a certain amount of money for set projects within the district. Both affect local property taxes.
Override funds could be used toward tutoring, intervention, instruction programs or all-day kindergarten. Bonds could be used for creating new classrooms, school buildings or overall improvements.
Districts receiving a “no” vote to budget override continuations or bond issues means that as their funding runs out, they will have to consider making cuts or trying voters again during the next election.
Here are the outcomes of the West Valley school districts and what their respective superintendent or city representatives had to say about the measures.
Agua Fria Union
High School District
The Agua Fria Union High School District looked to renew its 15% maintenance and operations override.
According to the voters’ informational pamphlet, the funds would have been used for programs, summer school, transportation, class sizes, teacher salaries and teacher recruitment.
The continuation cost to the average homeowner in the district is approximately $104 per year.
“The budget for this year has been approved by the board and this election does not impact local revenue for this fiscal year. However, state law requires that we step down the override funding by a third each year for three years if the override is not renewed by November 2022,” Mark Yslas, AFUHSD superintendent, wrote in a letter to the community. “In due course, we believe it is important to begin the conversation of what the potential loss of revenues might look like in the coming years.
“The financial impact of this override defeat is not immediate, but the fiscal implications of a potential three-year budget reduction of these revenues are important to discuss. While we begin to process how this potential loss of revenue might impact the district, we remain committed to listening, learning and developing relationships with the greater community, engaging parents in the educational process, and expressing our commitment of sound fiscal practices and management to our taxpayers.”
High School District
Buckeye Union High School District sought a continuation of its 10% maintenance and operations override.
According to the voters’ informational pamphlet, funds would have been used for class sizes, teacher recruitment and retention, safe and clean campuses, extracurricular activities and staff development.
The continuation cost to the average homeowner in the district is approximately $52.84 per year.
Eric Orsborn, mayor of Buckeye, was quoted in the pamphlet in favor of the continuation.
“With this rapid growth, we also need to make sure that our local schools can keep up with attracting and retaining quality teachers. If we want to continue to attract the best and the brightest teachers, we must continue to invest in our schools. Buckeye is committed to quality education — from K-12 to increasing our focus on secondary education. I support the maintenance and operations override for the Buckeye Union High School District. Every level and type of education needs the investment and commitment necessary to succeed,” he said.
Buckeye Elementary School District asked for a renewal of its 10% maintenance and operations override.
According to the voters’ informational pamphlet, funds would have been used to continue current programs, maintain present levels of service, and attract and retain teachers.
The continuation cost to the average homeowner in the district is approximately $139 per year.
Sen. Lisa Otondo and Rep. Joel John, both of Legislative District 4, were among those listed in support of the override continuation.
“As the fastest-growing city in the country, providing safe schools for its community, employing effective teachers and offering extracurricular activities is something the citizens in Buckeye are proud of. Our return on investment is worth maintaining,” John said.
High School District
The Tolleson Union High School District received a “yes” from voters on its $125 million bond request.
According to the voters’ informational pamphlet, the funds will be used for school safety and security, building maintenance, energy efficient systems, building construction, technology, furniture and equipment, transportation, vehicles and grounds improvements.
The cost to the owner of a typical home with an assessed value of $250,000 is estimated to be $58 per year.
“I am always amazed at the support that the Tolleson community receives when it comes to education, whether it be an override or, as in this case, a bond election. We are in the great position we are in because of the voters in Tolleson, Avondale, Phoenix and Glendale. I can’t think of a more supportive community in my 37 years in education,” Superintendent Nora Gutierrez said.
“The response from the voters at the ballot box is confirmation that they want us to continue maintaining the facilities for our students to the highest standards,” Chief Financial Officer Jeremy Calles added.
“Our community knows that our kids are just as deserving of a high-quality facility and a memorable high school experience as any other student in this state. They have entrusted us to ensure that this happens, and we won’t let them down. We will continue to raise all of our schools to the standard that we set with West Point High School.
“We are also in the early stages of planning for the newest high school on Dysart and Broadway. We appreciate any help that we can continue to receive from the state, but we are very grateful that here in our community we know how to take care of our own.”
Liberty Elementary School District sought a renewal of its 10% maintenance and operations override.
According to the voters’ informational pamphlet, the funds would have been used for student achievement, small class sizes, music, art, physical education, recruiting and retaining quality teachers, maintaining full-day kindergarten, and after-school sports and clubs.
The continuation cost to the average homeowner in the district is approximately $126.19 per year.
“Unfortunately, this will mean some difficult decisions will be required in the months to come,” Superintendent Dr. Lori Shough said. “Our override provided essential funding for important programs for children such as art, music and physical education, as well as after-school sports. The override has also helped to keep class sizes smaller. We will be bringing together key groups within the district to decide how we proceed with less funding down the road.”
The Litchfield Elementary School District was seeking a continuation of its 15% maintenance and operations override.
According to the voters’ informational pamphlet, the funds would have been used for teacher recruitment and retention, teacher and staff compensation, on-site nurses, special area programs, focus intervention programs and athletic programs.
The continuation cost to the average homeowner in the district is approximately $200.53 per year.
In a letter to the community, Superintendent Jodi Gunning addressed the election results.
“Despite the disappointing outcome of this election, the desperate needs of our district have not changed. Litchfield serves two of the fastest-growing communities in the entire United States, and this override helps the district hire additional teachers to keep class sizes small, maintain school nurses and fund critical programs,” the letter read.
“While we are disappointed with the election results, we are humbled daily by frequent acts of kindness and support that motivate our teachers and staff. We would like to thank the community for their votes, as well as their countless gestures that tell us how much our community values quality education.”
Pendergast Elementary School District
The Pendergast Elementary School District received a “yes” from voters on its $53.5 million bond request.
According to the voters’ informational pamphlet, the funds will be used for new construction projects, renovations and refurbishments, technology, safety, facilities and transportation.
The cost to the average homeowner in the district is approximately $114.15 per year.
“The passage of the bond election will allow the district to continue having a positive impact in our communities. It will allow the district to continue improving the learning environments, which helps us provide an exceptional education for our students,” said Dr. Shelmon Brown, the district’s chief academic officer.
“We are grateful to our voters for their continuous support and confidence. They understand our district’s needs and, most importantly, they recognize the vital work we are doing to maintain their property values with high-quality schools and programs. We deeply appreciate our Pendergast community.”
To view the full list of election results within Maricopa County, visit recorder.maricopa.gov/electionresults.