Committee leaning toward bond issue for Mesa school district - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Committee leaning toward bond issue for Mesa school district

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Posted: Friday, April 6, 2012 12:23 pm

A large majority of a committee looking at Mesa’s public schools believes a bond is needed to help finance maintenance of the district’s 87 campuses in light of a drop in state funds.

During a meeting Thursday night of the Mesa Unified School District’s facilities planning committee, 91 percent of the more than 30 members agreed with that statement in an informal poll.

The group was also asked about how much square footage is needed per student on an elementary school campus, whether or not a bond question for technology funds should be considered, and use of portable buildings.

District officials appointed the committee to examine facilities and try to put together a 10-year plan to “remodel, renovate, replace, remove and repurpose” buildings in a school system that includes more than 200 square miles.

The poll of committee members, which includes staff, district leaders, teachers, parents and students, found:

• 84 percent said equality in facilities across the district is important.

• 96 percent said the district’s evaluation of portable buildings is a “sound direction” to address unused excess square footage.

• 88 percent said keeping 10 percent open space on the main campuses is “acceptable to accommodate fluctuations in student population growth.”

• 94 percent believe the district “has and will continue the optimum utilization of bond funds for the best interest of student safety and learning.”

The committee also split up into groups to prioritize key components that could be put into a possible November bond question, including: $80 million for building repairs and renovations; $19 million to purchase pupil transportation; $60 million for technology equipment; $18 million to upgrade technology infrastructure in the district and $9 million to upgrade the transportation yards and facilities.

The group has not identified specific projects — or schools — to consider for a bond issue, but members are also looking at enrollment patterns and trends in the district. This year, the governing board voted to close Mesa Junior High School and move several Franklin schools to the Brimhall Junior High School campus, closing it as a neighborhood school.

The group also heard from Stone & Youngberg, a financial consultant that helps districts with bond issues. During a report, the group pointed out that in 2011, 71 percent of bond questions were approved by voters. That number was 77 percent in 2010, 93 percent in 2009 and 100 percent in 2008.

The last time Mesa voters approved a bond issue — a $212 million bond in 2005 — 90 percent of bond questions in the state were passed.

Should the committee recommend a $250 million bond question to the governing board, and the board approve it for the November ballot, the owner of a home assessed by the county at $113,258 would pay $57.44 a year. That is the average home valuation in Mesa, according to Stone & Youngberg.

The governing board has until June 6 to notify the county that it plans to have a November bond election. The board considered putting the issue on the November 2011 ballot, but the issue was postponed to re-evaluate.

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