Education is not cheap.
This is particularly true in Peoria and Glendale, where voters are being asked to approve more than a quarter billion dollars in school funding.
The Peoria Unified School District is asking for a continuation of a 13% maintenance and operations (M&O) budget override and a $125 million bond.
“We need to continue to support our local schools by voting ‘Yes’ on the Peoria Unified School District override and bond this November,” wrote Scot Andrews, president and CEO of the Peoria Chamber of Commerce, in a letter of support published in the informational pamphlet. “Both issues support our community’s important education needs without raising taxes. These resources are critical to excellence and the education of tomorrow’s leaders and business owners.”
Robert W. Heidt Jr., president and CEO of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, seconded that.
And Lisa Copley, a real estate professional, stressed the return on investment.
“While reality TV glamorizes home remodels, the truth remains that vibrant local schools have some of the greatest impact on a home’s value,” Copley wrote. “According to the National Association of REALTORS, ‘25% of home buyers listed school quality and 20% listed proximity to schools as deciding factors in their home purchase.’ Strong schools reduce crime and help protect our quality of life.”
The Peoria Unified School District, which has schools in Glendale and Peoria, and Glendale Union High School District both received strong support.
But, against multiple letters from parents and elected officials, there were two letters opposing the Peoria Unified override request.
“This is the fourth time Peoria Unified School District has come to us asking for more money,” wrote Corrine Haynes, who identified herself as a retired teacher, who urged voters to reject the requests.
“Yet their achievement scores still remain poor with 70% of our 11th graders unable to pass the state reading test. Poor performance does NOT result from lack of funding. It is not true that our schools are underfunded—quite the contrary. ... Until our concerns are answered, and we see actual proof of a rigorous curriculum that fosters skilled, informative, critical thinkers that can navigate successfully in this complicated world, stop asking for more money and start creating a better path forward. That would give me a reason to support an override!”
The other letter urging voters to reject the override came from Rick Gutridge, a PUSD advisory committee member.
Gutridge wrote he was upset a 12% override—rather than 13%—was not put on the ballot.
The smaller request, he said, “was intended to show that PUSD was willing to make a small sacrifice alongside district families who’ve taken cuts in their income due, or lost their jobs entirely, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Advisory Committee and Governing Board majority refused to consider this simple gesture, this reasonable option. They’ve made it clear that their wants and needs are more important than those of district families and small businesses, who are in no position to fund anything beyond their own essentials.”
Gutridge and Haynes also wrote letters opposing the PUSD $125 million bond request.
PUSD voting history
According to information provided by PUSD, “If approved, the M&O override continuation would continue to provide $28 million of additional funding each year to fund health care professionals, physical education, arts education, music, chorus and assistant principals on district campuses.”
Voters approved the current 13% override in 2015.
But an increase to 15% narrowly failed last fall.
PUSD voters first approved a 10% override in 1996 and renewed overrides in 2001, 2006 and 2012. In 2015, voters approved a 13% override. The authorization lasts for seven years and phases out over the last two years if not renewed or replaced with another voter-approved initiative.
If approved, the override will result in an estimated average annual tax rate of $1.4486 per $100 of limited assessed valuation for residential property owners. The tax rate associated with the district’s existing bond sales and the new $125,255,000 bond authorization would be $1.4781 per $100 of limited assessed valuation for a residential homeowner in the district.
According to PUSD, the $125 million bond would pay for:
•Renovation and essential and critical improvements at existing schools and support centers.
•Implementation of safety features at all school sites.
•Replacement of student and staff computer devices, servers and technology infrastructure.
•Replacement of student transportation vehicles including special education and activity buses.
•Acquiring land for future construction of a new high school.
The voters of Glendale Union High School District will decide on a $130 million bond. The district has nine high schools in Glendale and Phoenix.
According to the bond information pamphlet, the $130 million is to be used at GUHSD for constructing and renovating school buildings, purchasing transportation vehicles, improving school grounds and purchasing furniture, equipment and technology.
The GUHSD pamphlet includes letters of support from elected officials, groups and parents.
No letters of opposition were submitted.
In school board races, five candidates will be on the ballot for the Deer Valley Unified School District board and four for the Glendale Elementary School District board. Both districts have three seats open and had one candidate withdraw.
A robust field of nine candidates will fight for three Peoria Unified School District governing board seats.
Linda Busam, Rebecca Hill, C.J. Williams, Kirk Hobbs, Davita Solter, Kacie Franklin, Bill Sorensen, Devon Updegraff-Day and David Sandoval are battling for the three PUSD board seats.