School district decision looming - East Valley Tribune: News

School district decision looming

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Posted: Monday, October 30, 2006 2:13 am | Updated: 2:31 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

After Election Day, the Troon and Rio Verde areas in the north East Valley will belong to a school district for the first time. But whether the area joins the Cave Creek Unified School District or forms a new one is up to voters.

State law requires unorganized areas like Troon or Rio Verde to join an existing school district or form a new one this year. Such areas currently pay less in taxes because they don’t have school district taxes.

Most students in these areas attend a nearby district through open enrollment. The Maricopa County School Superintendent’s Office records 434 such students.

District counts are higher. The Cave Creek, Paradise Valley and Scottsdale unified school districts together report 506 students from the unorganized area in their schools.

These students and their siblings would not be affected by the outcome of the election because the decision applies only to students who have not yet moved into the area or who aren’t yet in school.

Initially, it would cost voters less to form a new school district. Based on figures from Maricopa County, the primary tax resulting from forming a new district would be $1,848.30 yearly for a home valued at $1 million. There would be no secondary tax at first because such a levy would have to be approved by voters.

Joining Cave Creek would mean $2,054.80 in primary taxes and $973.60 in secondary taxes annually for a $1 million home.

Under state law, a new district wouldn’t have to build its own schools until it reached 600 students in either primary or high school grades. That could be awhile. Although Cave Creek doesn’t have estimates for the Troon area, it predicts that in 10 years, 515 students will come from the Rio Verde area alone.

And voters in this new district could later try to join the Cave Creek Unified School District. But Cave Creek superintendent Tacy Ashby said at a forum earlier this month that there is no guarantee a new school district could later be annexed into Cave Creek. Annexation would require approval from voters in both districts.

Terry Quest, County Superintendent’s Office assistant director of finance, said it’s nearly impossible to calculate primary taxes going forward for either option since the equation depends on the number of students in a district and the amount of money the state grants per student each year.

“It’s way too hard to determine at this point in time,” he said. “I know that a lot of people who are going to vote are going to want to know what’s going to happen in year two, three, four, five.”

But Kent Frison, assistant director of finance for the Cave Creek district, said unless a district is growing quickly, primary tax rates tend to remain stable.

Voters in a new school district would have to approve new bonds and overrides before any secondary taxes were levied. That makes it impossible to estimate future secondary tax rates for a new district.

Secondary taxes in the Cave Creek District are a little easier to predict since they are tied to existing debt and overrides, Frison said.

Cave Creek’s secondary tax rate this year is $1.24 per $1,000 of assessed home value. Assuming no new bonds or overrides are passed, that rate is scheduled to drop to $1.03 next year, Frison said.

In 2008, the secondary tax rate is scheduled to drop to 45 cents, since the district is planning to pay off about half of its $44 million in outstanding bond debt in the next two years, Frison said.

More about it

The issue

Residents in the Troon and Rio Verde areas must vote either to join the Cave Creek Unified School District or form a new district. The areas currently don’t belong to a school district, and most children attend neighboring districts.

The voters’ choices

• Join Cave Creek: The area would be annexed into the existing district. Students would be assigned to a Cave Creek school, but could use open enrollment to attend a different school or different district. Students would not need permission from the Cave Creek Unified School District to do this.

• Form a new district: The Maricopa County School Superintendent’s Office would initially appoint a governing board to run the district, but voters would decide the board’s future makeup. The group, Citizens for a Unified School District, has proposed instead of building schools, the new district open-enroll its students in nearby districts and pay tuition and transportation costs.

Tax impact

Joining the Cave Creek Unified School District:

• Primary tax: $2,054.80 yearly for a home valued at $1 million

• Secondary tax: $973.60 yearly for a home valued at $1 million

Forming a new district:

• Primary tax: $1,848.30 yearly for a home valued at $1 million

• Secondary tax: None. There may be a future secondary tax, but voters would have to approve it.

SOURCE: Maricopa County School Superintendent’s Office

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Forum: Justice of the Peace, Kyrene Precinct

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