West Valley voters approved most — but not all — bond and override measures last week.
According to the Maricopa County Elections Department, Avondale, Littleton, Buckeye, Saddle Mountain, Tolleson, Liberty and Pendergast district voters approved financing measures on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Early results were not official.
“Unofficially, it looks like we have passed the bond election,” said Kristi Sandvik, superintendent of the Buckeye Elementary School District.
“We are extremely grateful to the community of Buckeye who showed their support in a variety of ways.”
There were, however, a few “split ballot” cases.
Liberty Elementary School District voters approved a bond, with 53% voting in favor. But a budget increase was rejected,; more than 54% voted against. In the Liberty district, 5,742 voted, which is just under 28% of the registered voters.
One member expressed great displeasure with the Liberty vote.
“Speaking for myself, I think it’s pretty shameful to vote against funding children in a state at the bottom of national educational spending in a strong economy when the adults at the federal level have borrowed $20 trillion-plus against those same children’s future,” said Jeffrey Turbitt, a Liberty Elementary School District board member.
“I can’t help but notice that not only did wealthy areas like Scottsdale and Paradise Valley pass overrides with ease, but so did our neighbors in Avondale. I have lived here for 10 years now and have no intention to ever leave, but I think this vote does nothing to lure new families, boost home values or set the tone that this community wants to be first class.
“A no vote, or indifference to the process, makes it harder to retain and recruit the best teachers and provide support to our children to be as successful as they can be. But elections have consequences, and if the people want a no-frills school system, then they should have that.”
By contrast, another Liberty board member, Kathy McNamara, said she was “pleasantly surprised.
“I believe it was an ambitious ask for the community and many hard-working advocates helped educate the public. I believe the typical participants on an off-cycle election would not necessarily support either and yet they clearly understood the capital needs but felt we needed to live within our current budget.
“I am concerned about providing maintenance and operation needs to our schools moving forward but for now I am celebrating,” McNamara said.
Despite the override rejection, she felt the bond was an important victory: “When I look at the amount of capital needs we have that this bond will meet and that our current override is still in place, I consider this a big win.
“In addition, I am also proud of the increased voter turnout. In my nearly 30 years living in the district, I have never witnessed the amount of work and advocacy administrators, teachers, parents, board members and community members invested to educate the public on the needs of our schools. I believe much of the credit goes to the top administrator, Dr. Lori Shough. She is an amazing leader,” said McNamara.
Paul Jensen, president of the Liberty governing, said he was “very grateful for the support for the bond which will be a tremendous help in providing better facilities for the students. There was tremendous support from many community members and staff in getting the word out for both requests. I believe we can continue to demonstrate our prudent use of funds and that with additional funds, even more, can be done for the students in the future.
“We asked for the override because going through the budget cuts there were items we cut that would really enhance our communities’ schools, like counselors at every school,” Jensen added.
“With the additional funds, there were things we could have added to enhance the educational experience of the students. Without the passage of the override, we will maintain our budget. We have some reserves that we try not to use but they help buffer the effects of a growing district.”
•The other split vote in the West Valley was at Saddle Mountain Unified School District, where voters approved a bond, with 54% in favor.
As at Liberty, Saddle Mountain voters rejected a budget override continuation, with 52% voting against. In the Saddle Mountain district, 1,488 voted, just under 25% of the total registered voters.
•Agua Fria Union High School District voters approved a $55 million bond, with 55% voting in favor. Voter turnout was 24%, with 19,379 voting in Agua Fria.
‘We have a number of needs being addressed through this bond request,” said Dennis Runyan, superintendent of Agua Fria Union High School District.
“School safety enhancements including updated campus cameras and fencing along with replacing our key system with a card reading system where feasible. The Agua Fria campus which is pushing 60 years old is currently completing phase one remodeling and this bond would allow that project to be fully completed for the phase two campus renewal and modernization.
“This bond would also provide us an opportunity to update the transportation facility which is over 40 years old and allow the transportation services to be centrally located. This would not only provide for some replacement buses and modernization the fueling systems but also help balance drivers routes as our district schools’ locations have expanded all the way to Buckeye and Waddell in the West Valley.”
Avondale Elementary School District approved a budget increase (“the lesser of $1.9 million or 10% of the District’s revenue control limit for capital purposes”), with nearly 57% in favor. Avondale had 3,047 cast ballots. In Avondale, 3,573 voted, or 15% of the total registered to vote.
According to the district’s website, the funding is to: Add and enhance safety and security infrastructure and equipment; upgrade technology including digital curriculum hardware and software; student curriculum and computer programing devices classroom and instructional materials; renovate and improve school facilities equipment, furniture and fixtures; and purchase pupil transportation vehicles.
•Buckeye Elementary School District voters approved a $54 million bond, as nearly 54% were in favor. In the Buckeye district, 4,549 voted, 22% of the registered voters.
According to the BESD website, “This is a continuation of our current funding measure has been in place for 30 years. The law allows school districts to acquire between 10 to 15% additional funding through local voter support above the current operations budget provided by the State.
“BESD’s Override is $2.5 million.
“The funds are used for staff salaries and benefits to attract and retain 49 highly qualified teachers and allow BESD to keep class sizes small, maintain competitive salaries, offer all-day free kindergarten, art, music, band, PE (physical education), guidance counselors and reading and math intervention specialists in every school.”
•Littleton Elementary School District voters approved a 15% override ($5.1 million), with 56% voting Yes. In the Littleton district, voter turnout was 10% with 2,192 voting.
“We are extremely grateful that the majority of voters participating continue to support the district,” said Dr. Roger Freeman, Littleton’s superintendent.
“Participation was about 10 percent and nearly two-thirds of the ballots mailed in were voters over 50. Our support rose to 56.4% because of people dropping off ballots so we think that was our younger voters – families today can be super busy so we appreciate the extra efforts they made to deliver their votes.
“We, meaning leaders from all sectors, need to strive as a community to engage our 18-49 constituents. The question we had on the ballot was critical to programs that I think are essential to our students – our community’s children. I can’t imagine what school would be like for these students without those resources, and I am so glad that our board will be able to count on these for at least a few more years.”
According to Littleton’s website, “All our schools enjoy state-of-the-art school facilities with environmental controls, wireless technology, and a continually expanding innovative one-to-one classroom laptop program as well as modern playground equipment in shaded play areas and upgraded sports fields.”
•Tolleson Union High School District voters approved a $125 million bond, with 60% in favor.
According to Tolleson election information, “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.”
Nearly 70% voted for a second Tolleson financing measure, enabling the district to sell or lease 53 acres on the southeast corner of South Dysart and West Broadway roads.
In Tolleson, voter turnout was 11%, with 8,923 participating.
•Pendergast Elementary School District voters approved a budget override, with 52% in favor. In the Pendergast areas, 4,587 voted, a turnout of 14%.
According to the Pendergast website, “This is a renewal of an existing override and with the continued funding, the district will be able to continue to provide a level of educational services and programs for students and community not funded by the state.
“The override generates $7.5 million for the district.”