By Ricardo Cano for The Arizona Republic
Voters in 22 Maricopa County school districts will decide in the Nov. 7 election whether to approve bonds and overrides – temporary, local property-tax-funded measures districts say they use to help offset longstanding cuts in state education funding.
This will be the first election in which all such measures in the county will be decided through mail-in ballots.
This year’s bond and override proposals would help fund construction of new schools, new school buses, teacher pay and programs such as full-day kindergarten.
For example, the Tolleson Elementary School District, which successfully passed an override last year to help fund full-day kindergarten, has a bond on the ballot this year that would help replace aging school buses and air-conditioning units and build a new gymnasium.
School districts asking voters to approve bonds and overrides frame the ballot measures as necessary for the financial well-being of their schools, which have lost out on 85 percent of state capital funding since the recession.
But the ballot measures – overrides, in particular – are not stable funding sources for schools. Overrides allow districts to increase their classroom budgets by up to 15 percent. They last seven years and begin phasing out by thirds in the fifth year, unless voters approve to extend the override. As a result, districts typically ask voters to extend overrides around the fifth year to avoid losing money.
Local school districts routinely go to the ballot box to help fund classroom or capital expenses – 50 out of 56 school districts in Maricopa County have asked voters to approve at least one bond or override in the last three elections.
While there appears to be no organized opposition against any of this year’s school ballot initiatives, their outcome is difficult to predict.
Maricopa County voters approved 24 of 28 school ballot measures in 2015, and 17 out of 20 last November. But they approved fewer than 50 percent of override requests in years prior.
In the Queen Creek Unified School District, voters will decide on a $63M bond proposal that would mainly go toward the construction of two elementary schools and a new high school for about 1,200 students.
Voters in Queen Creek rejected a $95M bond last year that would have gone toward that same purpose.
Crystal Korpan, the district’s chief financial officer, said the bond amount is lower this year because the district was able to get some funding through the state’s School Facilities Board.
School Bonds and Overrides on the Ballot in Maricopa County
Twenty-two school districts in Maricopa County are asking voters to approve bond and override initiatives this election.
Kyrene Elementary School District: The district has three initiatives on the ballot. Voters will decide on a $117M bond for various capital improvement projects, a $12.9M maintenance-and-operations override for teacher salaries and instructional programs such as music and Spanish, and a $6.8M capital override.
Osborn Elementary School District: Voters will decide on a $50M bond for new school buses and school renovations, as well as a $1.5M capital override for new textbooks, computers and interactive whiteboards.
Phoenix Union High School District: Voters will decide on a $269M bond and $25M maintenance-and-operations override.
Roosevelt Elementary School District: $35M bond, $6.8M override.
Read more at The Arizona Republic.