A Nov. 5 election ballot won’t be asking voters for a $50 million, $65 million or $75 million bond for Maricopa Unified School District. Instead, three of the five members of the governing board opted to compromise for $68 million.
The two dissenting members, Patti Coutré and Joshua Judd, pushed for $75 million.
The bond is for construction of a second high school to mitigate overcrowding and for capital projects for aging buildings, like replacing heating/cooling units and roofs.
Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said a second high school alone will cost around $67-$75 million. The district received $26 million for construction plus funding for land from the state’s School Facilities Board. Under questioning from Coutré, she said a $68 million high school would be a small but comprehensive school that might serve 2,600 students but without some of the programs of the current high school.
Board Vice President Ben Owens proposed the compromise. He said he talked to several people who had signed petitions to put him on the board, and all but one favored the $68 million idea.
Coutré said her constituents stressed the fact they did not like the district continually coming back to them for funds. A $68 million bond, she said, will likely lead to another bond request or capital override in a few years.
Judd, who attended via telephone, warned the board that interest rates will likely rise from the current 3.25 percent to the average 5 percent. He asked for the $75 million with the rate locked in.
“Currently we are at record lows for interest rates,” he said. “The further and further we go out from putting this on the ballot next year, the more we increase the risk of looking at the interest rates which were presented to us when we were given information earlier.”
He said it could cost voters money by not being aggressive now. “I think that’s the most responsible choice. Someone could be conservative now, but it ends up becoming the bad choice two or three years from now when interest rates increase.”
Lopeman said $68 million could result in $20 million left over but not enough to meet all the capital needs.
“We could be at capacity in, say, five years and still have needs,” she said.
“We’re always going to have needs. That’s the nature of the beast, which is great because we’re an awesome district and this is where everybody wants to be,” Anderson said. “But we’re always going to have to keep going back to the voters.”
Anderson said she thinks the state will come through with more capital funding that might help with repairs.
Board President AnnaMarie Knorr said she could see the day in the next five to six years when the district will need another middle school or another elementary school. Though she implored the board to reach a unanimous choice, Coutré and Judd could not agree to do so.
MUSD is currently under an M&O bond that paid for more teachers, smaller class sizes and technology. The district may ask for a renewal in 2020 or 2021. If this year’s bond passes but there is not enough money for major capital expenditures like rooftops, HVAC and safety measures, the district may ask for a capital override or another bond.