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AJ School District Seeks Bonds, Override

The $60M in bonds contains $4.22M for site improvements, which includes replacing track, bleachers and scoreboards at Apache Junction High school, above. During the 2018-19 school year, AJHS could not host a track meet because it was deemed unsafe. Credit: Arianna Grainey Independent Newsmedia

By Richard H. Dyer for Apache Junction Independent

Voters in a November 5th election will consider authorizing Apache Junction Unified School District to issue and sell $60M in school-improvement bonds and exceed its budget by the lesser of $2M or 10 percent of its revenue control limit.

The district’s first override passed in 1999 and was renewed in 2003. Further votes failed in May 2007 and November 2007, 2009, 2010, 2014 and 2015.

At the last election, voters denied the proposed increase of up to 15 percent to the district’s maintenance and operations budget. The override would have raised approximately $3.2M each year and allowed the district to prevent large class sizes, improve school safety and offer competitive salaries to teachers, officials said at the time.

In 2019 it will be a mailed-ballot-only election with no polling places provided. Ballots will be mailed to qualified electors residing within the district no earlier than 27 days prior to the election and no later than 15 days before the election.

Property Tax Increase

The estimated average annual tax rate is $1.13 per $100 for the bonds and $0.46 per $100 for the override of net assessed valuation used for secondary property tax purposes.

The average assessed value of a home in the district is $131K. Based on this average assessed value, homeowners will see an increase of approximately $17 per month if both the bonds and capital override pass, according to AJUSD figures.

“It is money well-spent, for a district that has not had an override for more than a decade,” Gold Canyon resident Pamela Niesl said.

AJUSD is requesting a $2M capital override to fund capital needs specifically focused on curriculum adoptions that include updating grades K-12 math, English language arts, social studies and science; with additional materials and resources for elective and special area classes.

Override monies would also include the purchase of library books; science technology engineering and mathematics materials; fine arts equipment (e.g., band, orchestra, choir, and drama); athletic equipment (e.g., bats, balls, uniforms); and for extra-curricular activities.

The $60M in bonds, according to the sheet, would be used for:

  • Campus improvements, for a total of $14,243,877: Phone system, interior/exterior paint, carpet, tile, sidewalks, landscaping, playground equipment, sound systems, art room/music rooms, classroom remodeling, front office remodeling — for safety concerns, kitchen equipment and remodeling, reseal parking lots, window coverings and marquees.
  • Technology updates, for a total of $9.1M: Chromebooks/carts, iPads/carts, laptops and workstations, document cameras, projectors, SmartBoards/televisions, printers/3-D printers, network and core switches, email archive system, servers, mobile device management, wireless access points, firewall, web content filtering, wireless controller and other tech equipment as needed.
  • Transportation/bus replacement, costing $6.4M: New buses to replace an aging fleet, with the average AJUSD pupil transportation vehicle in July 2019 having around 162,000 miles and 14.5 years old.
  • Safety and security, costing $1.885M: Improve safety measures with security cameras, stronger fencing and gates. The exterior fencing at Peralta Trail Elementary School is only four feet high. Re-key the district to provide better access for the police department when searching campuses in an emergency.
  • Site improvements, costing $4.22M: Provide necessary school and campus repairs and renovations. Replace track, bleachers and scoreboards — during the 2018-19 school year, Apache Junction High School could not host a track meet because the track was deemed unsafe.
  • Energy and utility cost control, costing $15,256,286: Update and replace HVAC units and provide more cost-efficient systems, repair and/or replace roofing and improve lighting at many schools to ensure the safety of staff and the community during evening events.
  • Other: Replace worn fixtures, furniture and equipment, costing $2M; and establish a contingency/escalation fund for unexpected costs and/or emergencies, for $6,894,837.

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