By Philip Haldiman
The committee tasked with recommending a bond and/or override to the Peoria Unified school board has considered a number of options that could make it to the November ballot.
In the coming week, the committee will finalize their recommendation and the board is expected to make the final decision May 30.
A public meeting is scheduled for the board and public to review the recommendation 8 a.m., May 21, in the Board Room at the District Administration Center, 6330 W. Thunderbird Road, Glendale.
CFO Michelle Myers said the committee has considered bond possibilities ranging from $90 million to $240 million as well as 13% and 15% maintenance and operations overrides for a potential election in the fall.
Voter’s rejected a $189 million bond in 2018 and a $198 bond in 2016 to fund technology, school improvements and new schools, among others. Meanwhile a past bond is nearing its ends.
“The committee has continued to review dollar amounts and project categories that were considered and approved in 2018 as a starting point for 2019,” Ms. Myers said. “The committee has continued to discuss the district’s current maintenance and operations override (13%), as well as information on a 15% override.”
Ballot measure discussion has included the 2018 bond categories and amounts updated for 8% inflation.
Members have also considered future bond funds to support school safety and critical facility repairs, renovations and maintenance throughout the district, as well as new elementary and high school construction.
Ms. Myers said the committee has reviewed bonding capacity, debt limit and property tax rates for the following amounts: $90 million, $140 million, $200 million or $240 million.
In addition, the committee has considered a smaller bond that could support technology purchases and infrastructure, elementary and high school maintenance and renovations, district-wide safety renovations, or a land purchase for a high school.
The final bond sale from the voter-approved 2012 bond is scheduled for July 2019. Ms. Myers said projections show the 2012 bond will be fully expended over the next two fiscal years.
This year is the first opportunity PUSD can try to renew its voter-approved 2015 override. If by 2020 the district is unsuccessful in renewing, the funds will be reduced each year for the following three years until funds run out.
PUSD President Monica Ceja Martinez said she would support a 15% override over a 13% override.
It is a different district than it was when the last override was approved, she said.
“I review compensation reports and look at compensation analysis, which tells us our employees get eight to 18% less than our peer districts and this is relevant because when we look at attracting the best teachers to have the best student outcomes, it is important we attract and retain the best teachers, in addition to administrators to instruct and facilitate top-notch teachers,” she said. “So the support and direction for my one-fifth vote is for the committee to consider the full 15%.”
The governing board agreed they would like to have a meeting to review the committee’s recommendation before it is put to a vote.
Governing board member Beverly Pingerelli said the committee needs to come up with the recommendation they have been working on for months, and then the school board will take ownership.
The timeline is critical and it has to be voted on May 30, she said.
“I would like to see what the recommendation is from the committee, and then I would like to hash it out. I don’t mind getting into the weeds, and I don’t want the committee to give us cover. We are responsible for this, so we have to own it. That is what I have said in the past, so I personally would like to have a meeting before to see what they recommend,” she said. “We are a group of five and we might have five different opinions.”
Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-3697 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PhilipHaldiman.
The district commissioned consultant High Ground to conduct a public opinion survey with a field of more than 400 likely 2019 off-cycle election voters to give the committee a better understanding of community priorities before making their recommendation.
The survey found that people in the area were split on the direction K-12 education is heading — 46% in the total right direction, 34.3% in the total wrong direction and 19.7% didn’t know or refused.
In general, 60.8% of respondents said the amount of funding K-12 schools in the area receive is too low.
About 66% said they would support a bond and about 55% would support an override.