In a unanimous vote with all members present, the Apache Junction Unified School District Governing Board approved the sale of the Gold Canyon Elementary School building, 5810 S. Alameda Road, to the current tenants, Gold Canyon Community Church. A deed restriction included in the agreement specifies that Dinosaur Park, located on the northeast edge of the property, will remain open and available to the public.
Board President Jodi Ehrlich clarified: “This is an amendment to our current lease agreement, providing a purchase provision for Gold Canyon Community Church. It calls for a $100,000 deposit that will be paid to the district. There will continue to be a monthly rent. The church will have until Dec. 31, 2020, to purchase the property for $1.8 million. If that purchase is not executed, the $100,000 earnest money will be forfeited to the district.”
Ehrlich stated that it was a “bittersweet” decision, but the demographic study, completed earlier this year, convinced Board members that it was the right decision.
Proceeds from the sale of the school, approved by voters on November 3, 2016, can only be used for capital outlay. Board members emphasized that the monies could not be used for salaries or to fund new positions.
“We know right off that there are a couple of safety issues that we will be addressing [with the deposit money], such as some fencing that needs to be put up,” said Superintendent Dr. Krista Anderson. “We will be taking a look at those projects and see which ones we can get done sooner than later.” She added, “We know that the November election is coming up and, if that does pass, those monies are not available until July 2020.”
The district is currently seeking voter approval of a $60 million bond sale and a $2 million capital (DAA) override, which will be used for extensive building/facilities maintenance, replacement buses for the aging fleet and updated classroom technology (bonds), as well as updated curriculum, library books, STEM materials and fine arts/athletic equipment (override).
The safety issues mentioned by Dr. Anderson are listed on the bond ballot; however, the bond initiative approves a maximum yield. Because bond monies can only be used for the expenditures listed on the ballot, if the district secures funding for those items through other resources, the bond sale can be reduced. It cannot be increased.
The 2004 bond initiative resulted in a similar situation when declining enrollment and the abandonment of planned housing developments nullified the need for a new high school, which had been planned for Gold Canyon. Because the high school was not built, the bonds were not sold, resulting in a savings to the public of $12 million.
The district is also pursuing funding through the Arizona School Facilities Board and has been approved for work to Peralta Trail Elementary, including HVAC and roof coating.
The ballot initiative also specifies that a community oversight committee will be formed to monitor the expenditure of bond and override proceeds.