Voters across the Valley will be asked to decide on funding for schools in November.
Nearly two dozen area districts seek budget overrides in the Nov. 5 election — and more than a dozen seek approval for bonds totaling more than $1.4 billion for capital improvements and new building projects.
While the state provides some funding for education, school districts across the state rely heavily on property tax-backed bonds for new schools, facility upgrades and new technology.
Christine Thompson is president and CEO of Expect More Arizona, a local coalition, which advocates for schools. She said school funding is important for all Arizonans.
“Strong classrooms and schools are essential to strong, healthy communities. Bonds and overrides are important vehicles for school districts to invest in our students’ futures,” Ms. Thompson stated.
Accounting for a total of $1,426,350,00 in bond requests, the average funding measure was $109 million across 13 districts.
The smallest request is $2.4 million for Nadaburg Unified School District No. 81; the largest bond request comes from the Chandler Unified School District, which seeks $289,750,000.
At least 20 districts will ask voters to approve maintenance and operations overrides — ranging from as little as $1.1 million requested by Liberty Elementary School District No. 25 to as much at $107 sought by Scottsdale Unified School District No. 48.
But in most cases, overrides are an approval to add 10% or 15% to a district’s annual budget; such funding is typically a continuation of existing funding and, in most cases, adds nothing to existing property tax rates.
The same is true of some bond requests, such as those in districts where previous bonds have been paid down.
But in some cases, bond requests — if approved — will add to homeowners’ secondary property tax burdens.
For instance, the Dysart Unified School District, which serves the Surprise area, is seeking both a continuation of an M&O override, as well as a new $152 million bond measure for capital improvements and facility upgrades.
As a continuation of the existing 15% override in that district, there would be no new impact on tax rates as compared to previous years.
The bond, however, would cost a homeowner there an estimated additional $10.88 per month, based on the bond assessment rate and a home worth $153,580.
Other districts define the tax impact a stated amount per $100 of property value (which is based on the county assessor’s valuation, not on current market value of a property).
Dysart officials state 52% of the bond will fund school site improvements, including security, safety and technology upgrades; 8% will be spent on new buses; 5% will be used to purchase land for a future high school; and 35% would fund construction of a pair of new elementary schools for the fast-growing district.
Officials claim these funding sources are needed, since sever budget cuts made during the Great Recession have not been restored at the state level.
“District capital funds have been cut by nearly $80 million in the last 10 years, and with the funding not restored for an additional four years, that number is expected to grow to $95 million by the end of fiscal year 2022. It has been 13 years (2006) since the last voter supported bond election ($190 million),” officials claimed in materials published at the district website.
Most school districts offer bond and override fact sheets prominently on their websites, providing detailed information about the funding requests, estimated tax impacts and plans for how the money would be spent.
The Higley Unified School District is not seeking a new bond approval; rather, district officials are asking voters to approve a repurposing of funds already approved in 2013.
“A successful repurposing election would allow the district to direct such voter approved bonds to the facilities needs in the district. Specifically, approval of the repurpose will apply funds no longer needed for land acquisition and a transportation support facility to ongoing pupil transportation and technology needs,” officials stated in their online materials.
Like many others, the Higley district provided a community feedback form at its website, seeking comments for and against its funding request; the forms were collected by the Office of the Maricopa County School Superintendent through Aug. 9.
The bond and M&O override measures will be decided through a mail-only election across the county.
The last day to register to vote is Monday, Oct. 7; the first date to vote by early ballot is Wednesday, Oct. 9.
The last day to request an early ballot is Monday, Oct. 25.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5.
For more information about voter registration and county elections, visit recorder.maricopa.gov/elections/.