Higley voters to weigh in on property tax hike | New
Voters within the boundaries of the Higley Unified School District will decide whether they want a higher property tax to pay off a proposed $ 95 million bond to fund things such as building renovations, replacing aging buses and purchase of one of the two controversial leases.
Ballots begin to be distributed on October 6 to voters eligible for the November 2 postal election. The last day to register to vote is October 4.
“Without the passage of the bond, Higley USD will face the wider impact of reduced public funding for education,” said Ben Harrison, chairman of the Bond Political Action Committee. âFacilities that need repairs will be ignored. Students who need devices to support learning will not receive them.
“And, HUSD will be in a bad position to deal with the growth that Higley is currently experiencing.”
During the recession, the state cut funding for schools, forcing many districts to delay projects.
Since 2009, the state has cut public schools by $ 4.56 billion and those cuts have not been reinstated, according to the Arizona School Boards Association.
HUSD says it is one of the fastest growing school districts in the state and expects it will add 3,000 more students to its current number of 12,500 over the next five years.
“For the general public, it is difficult to understand how our state leaders have funding shortfalls compared to the common sense needs of our students and teachers, but this perception does not change the reality of the needs of schools,” he said. Harrison said, adding:
âDistricts continue to push forward these liaison and priority efforts because they are faced with needs that are not being met by our state legislature. This has been the situation for decades and it never should have been. ”
Harrison, a former district teacher, said PAC so far sees support for the link.
âFrom the community, there has been a tremendous amount of conversation and positivity to support our school community with the bond,â he said. âIt seems our message to move the district forward together has resonated with voters. ”
The bond with interest would cost homeowners about $ 137 million when it is paid off. For a typical house with an estimated value of $ 250,000, the property tax is estimated at $ 163 per year, according to the district election brochure.
There is no argument against the link in the brochure. Bond spending would be spread over five years.
The last time voters decided on an education spending measure was in 2019 when they approved a continuation of a 15 percent waiver, funded by a property tax increase.
The district is proposing to spend the bulk of the bond – 33.7% or $ 32 million – to withdraw one of the two controversial and costly leases signed in 2012.
At the time, the district was experiencing explosive growth in student numbers and entered into agreements whereby it leased two new buildings for 40 years to a non-profit organization. The buildings currently house the Cooley and Sossaman campuses, the first and only colleges in the district.
The total cost of the two leases over their lifetime to the district is nearly $ 160 million, according to the state’s auditor general in July.
The move ended up costing the district three times as much as it would have cost for an outright purchase, the district’s interim financial director said in April during discussions about the obligation.
The Auditor General’s findings were the result of an investigation into then-superintendent Denise Birdwell’s relationships during her employment with HUSD.
A grand jury indicted Birdwell for allegedly designing the leases by rigging bids and taking winnings. She is also accused of embezzling public funds while in the district. She and two others involved in the case have a trial date set for April 7, 2022.
The next big spend is $ 27 million for more classrooms, the addition of specialized building spaces, and building upgrades and renovations.
Technology and security projects represent 16.3% of bond spending. The projects included teachers ‘and students’ laptops, network and wireless, phones and projectors.
The district is also looking to spend $ 11 million to perform major maintenance work such as replacing HVAC units and roofing and flooring projects; $ 3.5 million for replacement buses and $ 2.5 million to purchase land to build a potential school north of Pecos Road.