Community members will meet again Monday evening in Chandler to discuss the possibility of a future bond election for the 38,000-student district. It will be the second meeting for the group, which the Chandler Unified School District formed earlier this month.
During the first meeting, the district’s CFO Joel Wirth said the growing school district could need another one or two elementary schools in the next four years as the district continues to add students. Next year, the district predicts another 1,000 students will enroll.
The last schools to open in the district were a Chandler Traditional Academy Junior High School in an existing facility and a new alternative campus, built from 2006 bond funds. Both opened in July 2009.
The last new campuses to be built were Haley and Patterson elementary schools in the southeast portion of the district. Both opened in July 2008. They were funded mostly through state funds, with some supplemental funds from the 2006 bond election.
More than a decade ago, Students FIRST was created to equalize capital funding for school districts after the courts ruled there was too much disparity between districts.
Since then, Arizona has taken on the role of building of new schools for districts. The School Facilities Board was created to oversee those funds and disperse them to districts as a need was determined. The board also give districts funds for building maintenance issues.
But since then, the state’s budget woes have meant a near stoppage of those dollars.
That leaves school districts back in the business of raising funds through bond votes to take care of capital needs. Chandler voters approved bonds for building and maintenance needs in 2002, 2004 and 2006.
Because of the bonds, “the district has been able to stay fairly current with our needs,” Wirth’s presentation pointed out. But, “The problem is that we are running out of bond funds.”
Wirth’s presentation to the committee on Jan. 11 estimates the cost for each new elementary school at $16 million.
Even if state funds were available, the district would not likely receive because the School Facilities Board formula means the district wouldn’t qualify for a new school until 2016.
With the stoppage in building renewal dollars, the district will also not receive the $4 million it was expecting to get from the School Facilities Board to cover maintenance issues.
Wirth listed several capital projects that may be needed in the next few years, from roofing to carpet to parking and new multipurpose rooms.
Based on information from Stone & Youngberg, which has sold bonds for the district in the past, an approved bond election in November for between $70 million and $80 million would still mean a slow decrease in the tax rate for homeowners.
The community committee will look at the capital needs during Monday’s meeting, including renovation, new construction and soft capital – books, computers and other classroom supplies.
Like construction and maintenance funds from the state, soft capital dollars have also dried up as the state grapples with a multibillion-dollar budget shortfall.
The committee is expected to meet at least five times prior to making a recommendation on April 14 to the school board.
The board must vote by June 9 if it wants to place a bond election on the November 2 ballot.
Previous bond elections
2002: $59.95 million
Major projects included:
New Chandler Traditional Academy
Satellite transportation and maintenance facility
Chandler High School renovations
Security upgrades throughout the district
Bathroom renovations throughout the district
Willis Junior High School renovations
2004: $31.35 million
Major projects included:
Supplementing state funds for Perry High, Payne Junior High, Chandler Traditional Academy-Independence and Ryan Elementary
Additions at several schools, including multiple classrooms
Renovations at several district sites
2006: $91.6 million
Major projects included
Wellness Center at Guerrero Elementary School, to open in February
Stadium expansion at Basha High School
Ken “Chief” Hill Learning Academy
Teacher resource center
More than 70 buses
Air-conditioning upgrades throughout the district
Classroom additions at Galveston Elementary
Pathways Learning Center conversion to Chandler Traditional Academy Junior High
Supplementing state funds for Riggs, Fulton, Haley and Patterson elementary schools
If You Go:
What: Chandler Unified School District growth committee meeting
When: 6:30 p.m. Monday
Where: District office, 1525 W. Frye Road
Details: A group of citizens will meet to hear a presentation on facility needs by school officials. The committee is looking at the possibility of a Nov. 2 bond election for the district.
Information: (480) 812-7650