School districts ask voters to approve bonds, budget overrides - East Valley Tribune: Politics

School districts ask voters to approve bonds, budget overrides

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Posted: Saturday, October 23, 2010 12:30 pm | Updated: 1:24 pm, Tue Oct 26, 2010.

Three East Valley school districts are seeking bond project approval from voters during the Nov. 2 election.

Kyrene Elementary School District and Chandler and Queen Creek unified school districts are asking voters for funds to pay for maintenance and improvements at their schools. In addition, Chandler's bond includes funds to build elementary schools and Queen Creek's plan includes technology for the classrooms.

Kyrene is also asking voters to continue approval of its capital budget override to increase and update technology equipment in the classroom.

Apache Junction Unified School District is also seeking an override, this one for maintenance and operations funds that are used primarily to pay salaries and benefits for employees.

Arizona school districts receive their funds for operations based on the number of students enrolled. Most of those funds come from the state or property taxes. Districts can receive additional funds through maintenance and operations or capital overrides and bond projects.

While maintenance and operations overrides go toward a district's general fund, bond and capital override money can only be used for capital projects, campus buildings and the purchase of equipment or other classroom supplies.

In the past few years, the Legislature has not funded the School Facilities Board, which grants maintenance and building money to schools. So districts rely on bonds and capital overrides to help make up that loss, school leaders say.

Kyrene Elementary School District's $116 million bond question

• What it would fund: Projects include heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems; roofing and skylight systems; playgrounds and fields; electrical, lighting fire alarm systems; flooring and buses.

• Why? "It's needed more than in 2005 (the last bond issue) with all the cuts along with the School Facilities Board not being funded. It's more critical now than it was before," said Jeremy Calles, director of business services.

• Estimated additional annual cost to a homeowner, based on an assessed value of $100,000: $19.56

Kyrene Elementary School District's capital budget override

• What it would fund: Instructional support materials such as software, laptops, desktop computers, media center equipment, computer labs and network infrastructure.

• Why? A capital override is in place for seven years, with a one-third decrease in year five. The district is asking for the renewal in order to update technology to avoid losing the funds.

• Estimated additional annual cost to a homeowner, based on an assessed value of $100,000: $0 (an override is currently in place)

Chandler Unified School District's $84 million bond question

• What it would fund: new schools; land; school renovation; technology, furniture and equipment; buses; renovations to support facilities; and technology, furniture and equipment for support facilities.

• Why? A large portion of the bond money - $32 million - would go to buy land and build elementary schools in the district's growing southeastern area. The district will not be receiving any state funds for those schools since the Legislature cut funding to the Schools Facilities Board. The rest of the funds are designated for school renovation ($33 million); technology, equipment, furniture and buses ($17.5 million); and renovation to support facilities ($1.7 million).

• Estimated additional annual cost to a homeowner, based on an assessed value of $100,000: $8

Queen Creek Unified School District's $15 million bond question

• What it would fund: The district plans to use $8 million to purchase technology, furniture and equipment; $6 million is designated for school renovations and buildings; $1 million is planned for school vehicles, including buses.

• Why? Karen Fife, a Queen Creek mom and chairman of the bond support committee, said the district needs the funds because of cuts from the state. "We need this bond to just get the basics, let alone more technology," she said, noting that even with the 1 cent sale-tax increase approved by voters in May, "There were still cuts." The district's last bond election was in 2005 for $30 million.

• Estimated additional annual cost to a homeowner, based on an assessed value of $100,000: $25.11

A.J. Unified School District's maintenance and operations budget override

• What it would fund: The district reports funding will be used to increase teacher pay to compete with surrounding districts, purchase computers for student use, teacher training, school resource officers, and to update educational materials.

• Why? The override allows the district to spend 10 percent above its budget limit from the state. Voters have turned down previous requests to first renew then reinstate a previous maintenance and operations override. Most East Valley districts currently operate with an override in place.

• Estimated additional annual cost to a homeowner, based on an assessed value of $100,000: $56

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