From property taxes to teacher salaries, it’s unlikely the Gilbert Unified School District governing board will have the answers it wants before it must decide about consolidating with Higley.
The board must decide at its May 6 meeting whether to put the issue to voters in September.
At Thursday’s meeting, Clyde Dangerfield, assistant to Gilbert’s superintendent, told the board and about 20 teachers, parents and Higley Unified School District board members that the financial implications are still unclear.
Based on 2003-04 tax rates, if the districts were to consolidate in July 2005, Gilbert’s taxes would drop by 10 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, while the Higley district’s taxes would increase by 89 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, Dangerfield said.
"You are looking at about a $130 increase on a home assessed at $150,000 in Higley," he said.
When board members pressed him for more specifics, however, he said "nobody can be certain what the exact numbers will be because of the rate of new construction in both districts, especially Higley."
The board requested a comparison of teacher salaries between the districts. Dangerfield said that task is not easily completed, but state funding for consolidating districts could help alleviate discrepancies in pay scales.
Gilbert Superintendent Brad Barrett noted, though, that a consolidated district would have to be mindful. "That money runs out in three years," he said.
Barrett told the board there are positive and negative consequences to consolidation, but research is inconclusive. He noted larger districts tend to perform poorly, "but it’s more an issue of class size and school size." On the upside, Barrett said a consolidated district has more buying power and can lower operating costs.
Higley has already scheduled a September election. State law mandates both districts vote on the issue simultaneously.