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Henry Wade

Residents are asked if they want to continue to live in their current homes in later years. Photo by Michelle Chance

A recent housing study conducted by the city prompted debates online from residents who oppose the idea of multi-family housing in Maricopa. Read the study here

Saturday morning, residents continued the discussion during “Councilman on the Corner,” a public forum held regularly by Councilman Henry Wade.

“This subject seems to have resonated when I put it out there in Facebook and social media as to a question I posed,” Wade said. “It generated quite a bit of discussion, although that question was quite a small part of what the housing assessment is all about.”

Some residents argued the apartment and condominium units would bring down property values and attract crime.

“I also value that we have low crime, and that’s partly because of the kind of neighborhood that we have,” said resident Leonard Gonchar.

Maricopans who support the idea fired back.

“As a retired person, I’m not an undesirable,” said resident Karen Balliet, who said she cannot afford the cost of a single-family home in the city.

Balliet said after her husband died, she closed her business and searched for a home in Maricopa near her children and grandchildren.

“I was going to have to go to Casa Grande or Chandler to be as close as I could to them,” Balliet said. “But luckily for me, they built a multigenerational home so I could move in with them. That’s the only choice I had.”

Maricopa Development Services Director Martin Scribner said besides a few exceptions in Province, a retirement community, Maricopa is dominated by single family housing.

Scribner said the city is losing opportunities to attract multi-family housing developers, as well as the renters who would occupy the units.

“They have to be making somewhere near $50,000 per year in order to afford the housing here,” Scribner said.

City officials said housing and rental costs pose a challenge to not just retirees on a fixed income, but also to young professionals in the infancy of their careers.

Patti Coutré, president of the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board, said the district hired 80 employees for the new school year, many of whom are single and hired within the first five years of teaching.

Coutré said the housing costs in Maricopa often drive young educators to live in the Valley and make a long commute to work.

“If we can get them living in Maricopa, we have a better chance of retaining them. That’s one of our goals because it does show that our schools will get better if we can retain the employees,” Coutré said.

Scribner and Wade reiterated multi-family housing does not necessarily equate to “affordable housing” and the negative conations that often accompany the term.

However, Project Manager Kazi Haque said meetings with county agencies and local school districts proved there is also a need for housing for lower-income families as well.

“There is a lot of tendency for homelessness, which you don’t see every day,” Haque said. “There is homelessness over here, but it is undercover.”

In September, the city will begin work on a housing plan that will set priorities for the future of Maricopa housing.

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By Henry Wade

Hello Maricopa Family, I am writing you concerning a very important issue that has a profound impact on our community.

I am speaking about the Maricopa High School Homecoming game and connected special events.  Celebrating 60 years of Ram Pride, the Maricopa High School Homecoming Committee has spent countless hours preparing for the week of Sept. 17 through the 24th and really need your participation.

Unless you have ever been a part of a team such as this, you’ll never know and appreciate all the planning and energy that goes into making Homecoming a special event.

The student body looks forward to this week where they can “Paint the Town Red” and show their Ram Pride in thought, word and deed.  This year’s herculean task is no less challenging than any in the past and the organizers need your help and support to pull it off.

This year’s herculean task is no less challenging than any in the past and the organizers need your help and support to pull it off.

Having been directly involved in last year’s committee, I was thoroughly impressed with the unselfish manner in which students, faculty, parents and community supporters came together to create an exciting and thoughtful program. Keeping their focus on School Spirit and Pride, the committee reaches out to businesses, and individuals encouraging them join in their quest to highlight Maricopa’s community spirit.  This year adding to the fun is the celebration of Maricopa High’s 60th anniversary, what better way to celebrate the school’s history than to have a full blown celebration.

Please come out and experience the contagious excitement starting Saturday, Oct. 17, with the Tortosa HOA & UltraStar Laser Tag Tourney and ending with the MHS Homecoming Dance Saturday, Oct. 24. For questions on how you can participate or if you are a businessowner and want to enter the “Paint the Town Red” contest, contact Bermadette Russoniello at 520-568-8100, ext. 4047.  You can also send an email to mhsnews@gmail.com.

Henry Wade is a Maricopa City Council Member.

Cierra Reynolds passed out foam fingers and shirts to promote nest week’s Homecoming Week festivities during the MUSD Governing Board meeting Wednesday night. Photo by Adam Wolfe

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board discussed the progress on another override effort, as well as honoring City Council member Henry Wade and hearing presentations from students and staff during their work session Wednesday night.

The override committee features 11 community members, and they are deciding which proposal would be the most effective.

For an override, the school can ask for up to 15 percent of extra funding to pay specifically for maintenance and operations. The money can be spread out from one to seven years, and the funds come from a tax increase tacked onto property tax in the district.

The last approved budget override took place in 2004. That funding expired in 2012, and override attempts have failed to pass in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014 elections.

The override committee is currently planning for this attempt to be on the 2016 General Election ballot. At this time, the school is expected to ask for a 15 percent override spread out over seven years.

“Our staff wants to provide the best education possible for our students,” MUSD superintendent Steve Chestnut said. “This would allow us to buy some additional resources to meeting that goal. I don’t think that money is the only thing we need to do to be an ‘A’ rated school district, but we know that additional resources can provide additional resources and reduce class sizes.”

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According to Chestnut, the school’s budget has decreased by 24 percent since 2008. A lot of the funding the school received through grants from the Ak-Chin Indian Community and the state has also expired. If the school does not get an override, more budget cuts could be on the way, and potentially more jobs would be on the chopping block.

“We all know that the Maricopa Unified School District is the largest employer here in Maricopa,” MUSD Board President Patti Coutre said. “We don’t want to cut anyone’s job.”

The asking amount and the timeframe for the planned override are still subject to change. In order to have it on the November 2016 ballot, the committee would likely need to iron out the final details within the next month.

Henry Wade receives a HOPE award from MUSD Governing Board President Patti Coutre. (MUSD photo)
Henry Wade receives a HOPE award from MUSD Governing Board President Patti Coutre. (MUSD photo)

The meeting Wednesday was unusually full with members of the student council there to present on Homecoming, and City Council member Peggy Chapados, City Manager Gregory Rose and Vice Mayor Marvin Brown in attendance to support council member Henry Wade as he received the Heroes of Public Education Award.

Wade was awarded the HOPE Award by Coutre for outstanding commitment and advocacy for public education in Maricopa. The award was created this year and is part of an effort of a statewide effort by the Arizona School Boards Association to show appreciation to community members that inspire students throughout Arizona.

“Very recently, our family expanded by two as my grandsons are now living with us,” Wade said. “I told this to [Superintendent Steve Chestnut], and he asked where they would be going to school. Of course I [joked] ‘I’d probably pick a charter school somewhere,’ but there is no question. Support for the public schools is important to me. Even to the point of making sure the people who are close to me participate as well.”

Wade’s award presentation was followed by an “Ignite Presentation” by Maricopa High School science teacher Phillip Smith. The Ignite series has taken place over the last few school board meetings and gives MUSD teachers the opportunity to discuss why they became teachers and what it means to them.

“As a scientist, speaking about education, I like to do it in mathematical terms,” Smith said. “A fact I’ve noticed about education as a whole is that it’s all about the numbers at the end of the day. Numbers are what control us and dictate what we do.”

For Smith, everything boils down to the number 178. This represents the number of students he teaches each day. However, the number goes far beyond lesson plans.

“As of this morning, 178 students are enrolled in Mr. Smith’s biology class at Maricopa High School,” Smith said. “With them comes 178 personal stories, 178 faces, 178 sets of test scores, 178 home lives and 178 struggles they bring with them every day. They are 178 reasons why I come to work.”

Smith continued with his list, and by the end of his speech, those in attendance were on their feet applauding.

“I got chills (during Smith’s presentation),” board member Annamarie Knorr said. “We have amazing teachers in our district and they’re doing amazing things. You guys really are making a difference.”

The MUSD Governing Board will not meet again in October. There next meeting will be Wednesday, Nov. 4.