After the Troon and Rio Verde areas of the north East Valley voted to form a new school district instead of joining Cave Creek’s in November, state Sen. Linda Gray said she heard complaints from parents who felt their children’s best interests weren’t taken into consideration.
Now Gray, R-Glendale, has introduced legislation that would prevent other growing areas from getting into the same situation. Senate Bill 1067 will be heard by the Senate’s education committee Wednesday.
The bill would require district boundaries be redrawn to include unorganized areas — or parts of the state that are not part of a school district — when such areas have 150 students attending neighboring districts.
Unorganized areas have lower tax rates because they pay only a county schools tax and no district tax.
“To me, it’s an issue of paying your fair share of taxes,” Gray said. “Because the students were transported, they weren’t paying their fair share.”
Under the bill, if a school district educates 25 percent of the students from the unorganized area, the area would automatically become part of that district. If two districts met that criteria, voters would decide which one to join.
Gray introduced similar legislation last year, which became law. But last year’s version let unorganized areas choose to join a district or form a new one.
As a result, voters in the Troon and Rio Verde areas voted to form a new school district instead of joining the Cave Creek Unified School District.
The new district, which for now is being called Christopher Verde, is expected to be a transportation district — one that pays transportation and tuition costs to surrounding districts to educate students.
Troon resident Graham Kettle, who spoke in favor of joining the Cave Creek district before the election, said other growing areas should “become part of a proper district from day one.”
“Forming a new district (in Troon) was done for no other reason than to pay lower taxes for a few more years,” he said.
Pat Flynn, who headed the group that suggested a new district without schools, said he wasn’t surprised by the legislation.
“The voice of the people should be heard, and for two years now they haven’t been listening to the voice of the people at all,” he said.
Gray said Christopher Verde residents are now paying their fair share of taxes because they belong to a district. But she is looking at alternatives that would let Christopher Verde join another district, since this bill wouldn’t affect the new district.
“(Residents) cannot vote on school board members” in the district students actually attend class, Gray said. “They can only vote in the future on school board members who are transporting students.”
Board member search
Residents of the new Christopher Verde School District who are interested in applying for one of the three governing board positions should send a letter of interest, resume and letters of community support to Sandra E. Dowling, Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools, 4041 N. Central Ave., Suite 1100, Phoenix, 85012, or fax to Regina Perez at (602) 506-3753. Materials must be received by 5 p.m. Jan. 19.