By Bret Roberts
Having lived in Maricopa since January of 2009 I have seen the override placed on the ballot many times only to fail miserably each and every time. Why is this time any different?
This time it is very clear where the funds will be spent – up to 49 new teachers to reduce class sizes and $500,000 for classroom technology to be specific. Although that in itself is extremely valuable information, for me it wasn’t enough. I needed to overcome some negative perceptions I had come to believe before I could in good conscience get behind it.
In the past I was against the override for a couple reasons. The one that troubled me the most was I kept hearing rumors there was gross mismanagement of funds, which naturally I could not support. Who would want to keep throwing good money after bad to try and fix a problem?
With that being said, I do have to admit that I had not taken the time to investigate these issues in the past. That has since changed, as well as my perception.
These negative perceptions all started for me back when our neighbors the Ak-Chin originally donated funds to MUSD and I heard rumors that they weren’t satisfied with the results of their donation. After addressing this with MUSD’s Superintendant Dr. Steve Chestnut (which, by the way, it bears mentioning the original donation took place in 2010 well before Dr. Chestnut’s tenure started in 2012), I learned this was a first for both MUSD and the Ak-Chin.
Therefore it was an opportunity to learn for both parties. At that time neither one knew what to expect and has since gained a better understanding from the initial experience. Since then our neighbors have graciously donated again, and, from the information I’ve been given, both sides were more prepared and happy with the results.
Another reason that kept my support at bay was I kept hearing MUSD had a top-heavy administration. This was one more perception that has proven to be false. MUSD’s administrative costs are actually 9.7 percent, which is below the state average of 10.2 percent.
Some believe these negative perceptions should be left in the past, never to be mentioned. However my perspective is, it’s imperative to discuss and deal with them head on. I just have a hard time believing we as a community will ever get past these negative rumors unless we talk about and overcome them once and for all. When I started looking into these issues I will admit I was not 100 percent on board and very skeptical as to the information that would be uncovered. At this point, I am glad I took the time to get involved. By attending not all but many meetings (that are open to public by the way) as well as doing a little research on my own I have learned quite a bit on this matter.
It is no secret that Maricopa has more than its share of Facebook groups and one of the most common topics I see in those groups is the subject of “why can’t we get this business or that restaurant”? Economic development is the answer and for me it is the most important reason I now support the override. It plays a major factor in answering that question.
When businesses look at Maricopa as a potential home they come with a list of things they are looking for, and top-rated schools are usually in the top three. Passing the override and helping our schools become “A”-rated will help in the economic development of Maricopa, and it is an opportunity to remove one of the major reasons a business might use as a factor to not choose our community.
The more places of employment we attract, the more opportunities we will have for that particular restaurant or retail outlet you might be hoping for. Restaurants need lunch crowds to stay in business and until we get more employers in Maricopa we will remain limited at best. I hope I’m doing OK at connecting the dots as to how it is all tied together.
Better schools equal more opportunity for economic development and higher property values. Businesses pay more in taxes than individuals, so the more businesses we attract the more opportunity for individual taxes to be reduced.
Oh, and let’s not forget the benefit to the students.
Speaking of the students, here’s a few factoids to ponder. Were you aware that 68 percent of our prison population did not graduate from high school? Or that each Arizona high school dropout results in approximately $421,280 loss in economic activity and wages during his or her lifetime. As well as the long term economic cost of high school dropouts in the state is as much as $7.6 billion.
One last thing, MHS’s dropout rate is 4 percent. That is 1 percent higher than the states average. Hopefully passing the override will bring us closer to the state average.
As it is my family’s children have graduated from high school so I am not writing this as a parent. I am writing this as a citizen, a taxpayer and an advocate for the city of Maricopa. More importantly to share that when I decided to take the time to look into this I was able to overcome my objections and get behind the override. If you have objections I encourage you to look into them and ask questions, hopefully you will overcome them as I have.
I stated earlier throwing good money after bad to fix a problem is not something I believe in. After researching and educating myself a little more on the issue I believe risking a little up front on an investment, which is exactly how this should be viewed, as an investment with tremendous potential on the rate of return for Maricopa. Well that my friends is something I can get behind.
Bret Roberts is a Maricopa resident. He is Pinal County constable in the Maricopa/Stanfield Justice Precinct.
This column appeared, in part, in the October issue of InMaricopa.