June 11th the AJUSD school board approved a $60 million bond for next election giving citizens little time to voice concerns.
The bond proposal is an all-inclusive list of district needs (including a $6.4 million contingency) as if the district has zero existing funding. In fact, the district receives $800K + per year for capital outlays and expects funds from the sale Gold Canyon Elementary this year. Furthermore, a state agency called the School Facilities Board (SFB) grants funds to schools for building renewal, which are repairs such as HVAC, roofing, lighting, etc. AJUSD has not been receiving enough grants from the SFB because it hasn’t been applying. Perhaps the most pressing needs (such as the cracked sidewalks photographed for the paper) would already be in the process of being fixed had AJUSD applied for grants in a timely manner.
Next concern is the district’s reluctance to sell the closed Superstition Mountain Elementary School (SMES) due to a belief it can “recapture” students. The bond proposal includes $3.6 million for repairs at SMES. No data shows any likelihood AJUSD will recapture enough students to even reach operational capacity as it currently operates 1,500 students below capacity. District officials believe they can reopen SMES by offering a Spanish immersion school. The district has not explained why it is in the taxpayers’ interest to finance the needed repairs for SMES and take that risk. A charter school could buy this property and raise private money to start such a school, which would put zero tax burden or risk on the taxpayers.
The school board’s priority should be financing needs for existing students by demanding best use of regular capital outlay funding, SFB grants, and selling unused buildings. Taxpayers should not be asked for higher taxes when funding exists elsewhere.