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School Bond Total Sets $1.4B Record

By Roland Murphy for Arizona Builder’s Exchange

Somewhere between the clichés of legislation resembling sausage-making – in that it’s not a pleasant process to watch – and necessity being the mother of invention, lies the possibility that Arizona voters could well set a record on Nov. 8 for the amount of K-12 bond election funds approved for education in the state.

Over the last decade, despite loudly voiced statements in both the public and private sectors on the need for education improvements, budget cuts and funding diversions put Arizona consistently near the bottom in terms of funding, including funding for facilities, program upgrades, transportation, and safety and security. Districts have increasingly had to turn to bond measures as a funding source.

This election, there are a total of 48 bond-related measures on ballots around the state. Twenty-two are Maintenance & Operations overrides, four are direct additional assistance (capital) overrides, and 22 are new bond authorizations, the highest number seen since 2006.

During the economic boom of that year, every one of the 27 new bond requests was approved, for a total of nearly $1.23B. 2012 and 2013 saw the lowest numbers of requests, at nine and 11, respectively. 2013 also saw the lowest number of approvals, with only seven, or 64 percent, earning voter consent, bringing in a mere $276M across the state.

2014 and 2015 saw a rebound, however. In both years, districts proposed 16 bond questions of which 14, or 88 percent, passed. 2015’s approvals totaled $937M, according to a presentation by Michael LaVallee, managing director of Stifel’s Phoenix Public Finance Office, at the AZBEX Public Works Conference (AZBEX, Oct. 7).

LaVallee’s breakdown shows the 22 bond election requests this year total just over $1.4B. Four districts have requests greater than $100M. Five are seeking between $50M and $100M. Six are requesting between $25M and $50M, and seven are asking for less than $25M.

If this year’s requests match the previous approval rate of 88 percent, the total would equal $1.25B, beating out the record set in 2006.

AZBEX will continue to follow developments on these requests and present a summary once election results are posted around the state.

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