Early results from Apache Junction school district election on $60M in bonds, $2M capital override


Two items before voters in the Apache Junction Unified School District failed, according to unofficial results posted by the Pinal County Elections Department.

Voters in the Nov. 5 election considered authorizing the district to issue and sell $60 million in school-improvement bonds and exceed its budget by the lesser of $2 million a year for seven years or 10% of its revenue control limit. It was a mailed-ballot-only election with no polling places provided.

With 11,554 total votes cast, the bonds had 6,352 (54.98%) “no” votes and 5,202 (45.02%) “yes” votes; and, with 10,982 votes cast, the budget override had 6,356 (57.88%) “no” votes and 4,626 (42.12%) “yes” votes, according to results posted at 5:11 p.m. Nov. 8 at the county elections website.

“I am disappointed to report that Apache Junction Unified School District’s election for Proposition 432 bond and Proposition 433 for the district additional assistance override failed to pass,” AJUSD Superintendent Dr. Krista Anderson said in a letter to students, families and members of the community.

“I would like to thank everyone who has supported us in this effort. While we are disappointed in the outcome, please be assured that we will remain dedicated to providing our students with the knowledge, skills and ingenuity to pursue their dreams and make a positive difference in the world,” she said.

The district’s first override passed in 1999 and was renewed in 2003. Further votes failed in May 2007 and November 2007, 2009, 2010, 2014 and 2015.

At the 2015 election, voters denied the proposed increase of up to 15% to the district’s maintenance and operations budget. The override would have raised approximately $3.2 million each year and allowed the district to prevent large class sizes, improve school safety and offer competitive salaries to teachers, officials said at the time.

Property tax increase

The estimated average annual tax rate is $1.13 per $100 for the bonds and $0.46 per $100 for the override of net assessed valuation used for secondary property tax purposes.

The average assessed value of a home in the district is $131,000. Based on this average assessed value, homeowners will see an increase of approximately $17 per month if both the bonds and capital override pass, according to AJUSD figures.

What is an override?

An override allows voters in a school district to approve additional funding for capital expenses, according to an AJUSD fact sheet.

The override would allow the district to exceed its budget by 10% for seven years.

AJUSD is requesting a $2 million capital override for each of seven years to fund capital needs specifically focused on curriculum adoptions that include updating grades K-12 math, English language arts, social studies and science; with additional materials and resources for elective and special area classes.

Override monies would also include the purchase of library books; science technology engineering and mathematics materials; fine arts equipment (e.g., band, orchestra, choir, and drama); athletic equipment (e.g., bats, balls, uniforms); and for extra-curricular activities.

What are bonds?

Bonds are loans made to the school district. A bond provides additional funding to use for capital items such as renovating buildings, purchasing school buses, equipment and technology, building an addition or constructing new facilities, according to the AJUSD fact sheet.

The $60 million in bonds, according to the sheet, would be used for:

• Campus improvements, for a total of $14,243,877: Phone system, interior/exterior paint, carpet, tile, sidewalks, landscaping, playground equipment, sound systems, art room/music rooms, classroom remodeling, front office remodeling — for safety concerns, kitchen equipment and remodeling, reseal parking lots, window coverings and marquees.

• Technology updates, for a total of $9,1 million: Chromebooks/carts, iPads/carts, laptops and workstations, document cameras, projectors, SmartBoards/televisions, printers/3-D printers, network and core switches, email archive system, servers, mobile device management, wireless access points, firewall, web content filtering, wireless controller and other tech equipment as needed.

• Transportation/bus replacement, costing $6.4 million: New buses to replace an aging fleet, with the average AJUSD pupil transportation vehicle in July 2019 having around 162,000 miles and 14.5 years old.

• Safety and security, costing $1,885,000: Improve safety measures with security cameras, stronger fencing and gates. The exterior fencing at Peralta Trail Elementary School is only 4 feet high. Re-key the district to provide better access for the police department when searching campuses in an emergency.

• Site improvements, costing $4,220,000: Provide necessary school and campus repairs and renovations. Replace track, bleachers and scoreboards — during the 2018-19 school year, Apache Junction High School could not host a track meet because the track was deemed unsafe.

• Energy and utility cost control, costing $15,256,286: Update and replace HVAC units and provide more cost-efficient systems, repair and/or replace roofing and improve lighting at many schools to ensure the safety of staff and the community during evening events.

• Other: Replace worn fixtures, furniture and equipment, costing $2 million; and establish a contingency/escalation fund for unexpected costs and/or emergencies, for $6,894,837.