The Florence Unified School District will be asking for a $25 Million Dollar Bond and an 8% Maintenance and Operations Override this year. The district has a current bond capacity of $50 Million but is only asking for half of that. Maintenance and Operations Overrides can go up to 15% but FUSD is asking for 8%. It will be an all-mail ballot coming out the week of October 10th and voters will need to return their ballots by November 7th (November 3rd if you are mailing it back).
So, what is a Bond and Override and why do school districts ask for them? It is best to start with how schools are funded to explain what they are and how they are utilized.
The State of Arizona funds Public Schools and Charter Schools using the ADM (Average Daily Membership Formula). About $3,600 is given for every student who attends every day of school for an entire school year. Unless they are in kindergarten, then they are funded at $1,800 and pre-school is completely un-funded. The national average is around $11,000 per student contributed by each state. This is money that is provided before federal funds. Public Charter Schools are given around $4,500 per student because they are not able to request property tax increases like District Schools can.
All of the money collected in basically put into two pots – Capital Funds which are used for things like buses, technology, buildings, security, playgrounds etc. The second pot is called Maintenance and Operations which is where all salaries and services are paid.
Since 2007, the Arizona Legislator has made dramatic cuts to the capital budgets for all public school district. For FUSD, there would be around $4.6 Million Dollars in the capital budget this school year to support 9,200 students (75% of which are in San Tan Valley) and 12 schools. Instead, FUSD operates on around $550,000. Buses cost well over $100,000 and the district invests $1.7 Million per year into the technology our students utilize across the district.
A bond is limited on what it can be used for and is only available for some capital projects. Only recently has the state allowed bond money to be used on technology. If the bond passes, FUSD will use it to update and upgrade all security cameras and facilities for student safety. Purchase around 70 buses over the next ten years to transport our growing population of students and replace old buses in the fleet. Update fields, playgrounds and common spaces for security and safety as well as provide mass copy machines for its teachers.
The Maintenance and Operations Override will be used to increase salaries. With the recent passage of Prop 206, the minimum wage is going to be $12 an hour by 2020. The state is currently not funding these salary increases for public school district but requires them to pay the increases. This is estimated to cost FUSD around $2.3 Million Dollars by the time everyone gets to the $12 minimum wage.
While raising the minimum wage, FUSD will also be raising teachers’ salaries for the next three years with the Override. It will start with a $1,000 raise to the base salary of every certified employee in year one and will continue to increase for the following two years. FUSD currently has their salary schedule set at $36,700 for new teachers. Chandler Unified School District pays $40,000 and surrounding districts are around $37,000 to $39,000. FUSD employs about 550 teachers and currently has a turn-over of 100-130 teachers per year.
The total property tax increase for both initiatives is $1.30 per $100 of assessed valuation or on average, in San Tan Valley, $130 per year. Or about $2.70 per week.
If you have any questions or would like more information, you can call FUSD at (520)-866-3532.