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Schools seek local funding through bonds, overrides

Peoria Unified School District Students Stand Beside A Bus. Photo Courtesy Peoria Unified School District

Arizona school districts are asking local voters to approve money for school repairs, maintenance construction and security – needs that state funding for has been severely reduced or eliminated in recent years.

The state drastically reduced capital funding for school districts when the Great Recession began in 2008, and that funding has not recovered since then. For example, the state provided almost $7 million in capital needs funding for Flagstaff Unified School District in 2007, but just $600,000 in 2018.

Vail School District Superintendent Cal Baker, whose district has benefited from such ballot measures in the past, said he knows they can be hard to understand.

“A bond is like a mortgage that pays for things you can feel and touch, like buses and school buildings,” Baker said in an Arizona Public Media article. “An override is for operations, primarily for people, and it’s an annual allocation that must be renewed every five years.”

Schools seek local funding through bonds, overrides AZEdNewsUpdated2018BondsOverridesInfographic

Infographic by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews
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Education funding is a balancing act between local, state and federal sources, with bonds and overrides a way communities can contribute directly to their district schools, while making up for state and federal shortcomings, Baker said.

This is especially true in Arizona where local funding outpaces state funding as a revenue source for Arizona K-12 public schools, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau Public Education Finances 2016 released on May 21, 2018.
This is in stark contrast to most states in the nation where state funding is more than local funding.

Schools seek local funding through bonds, overrides AZEdNews-School-Funding-Sources-For-AZ-Public-Schools-2018-Infographic

Infographic by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews
Click here for a larger version

Approval of the 12 bond measures on ballots in the November 6, 2018 general election would give the school districts seeking them the ability to raise a certain amount of money locally through property taxes for set capital projects.

Flagstaff voters will see a school bond and a renewal of a budget override on the ballot that would provide local schools with continued and additional funding for the next five to six years, said Mike Penca, Flagstaff Unified superintendent in an Arizona Daily Sun article.

The $75 million bond would increase the annual tax levy of $16 per $100,000 of assessed value on a home, and let Flagstaff Unified pay for school repairs that were once covered by state funding.

Before capital funding was cut in 2008, the amount was enough to keep Flagstaff Unified school buildings maintained, but now the district uses bond money to keep repaired and in operational condition, Penca said.

Sahuarita School District Superintendent Manny Valenzuela said he can understand why some voters would rather see school districts tighten their spending further than approve bonds or overrides.

“First of all, I’m sensitive to that issue,” said Valenzuela, in an Arizona Public Media article. “Because I understand that money’s not everything, but it is something. It’s an additional cost which we’re very sensitive to locally, and I’m certainly sensitive to it when we ask our community to invest additional dollars out of their pocket.”

Nadaburg Unified School District is seeking a $2.3 million bond to renovate schools, buy new vehicles, improve school grounds, and supply schools with furniture, equipment and technology.

Voter approval of the 24 overrides on the ballot would allow school districts to raise funds up to 15 percent of their budget for maintenance and operation to reduce class sizes, raise teacher pay, and other classroom improvements.

In Flagstaff, the override would not raise the current tax rate of $71.39 per $100,000 of assessed value on a home, yet it would let Flagstaff Unified continue operating with an additional 15 percent in its maintenance and operations budget.

This override has been passed by voters multiple times and ensures the district provides full-day kindergarten, art, music and physical education classes in elementary school, and smaller than the state average class sizes, Penca said.

In Phoenix, Cartwright Elementary School District is seeking a $13.5 million override, which would renew its existing maintenance and operations override, to fund full-day kindergarten and provide instructional materials and school supplies, according to an article in The Arizona Republic.

Glendale Union High School District is seeking a renewal of it’s existing $9.8 million maintenance and operations override to reduce class sizes, maintain courseand athletic offerings as well as provide essential student support services.

If voters approve the seven capital overrides or District Additional Assistance overrides, on the ballot, that would let school districts boost funds up 10 percent of the district’s revenue control limit to replace school buses, technology, books, and provide athletic, fine arts and playground equipment as well as fund school and facility repairs.

For example, Littleton Elementary School District is seeking a $400,000 override for District Additional Assistance to continue improving technology, upgrading instructional materials and maintain school facilities.

Wilson Elementary School District is seeking a renewal of it’s existing $495,000 District Additional Assistance override to buy educational technology, library software, library books, textbooks, musical instruments, sports equipment and art materials.

In Laveen, the Laveen Elementary School District seeks a renewal of it’s existing $3.8 million District Additional Assistance override to buy textbooks, library books and classroom technology as well as rennovate and build schools.