Into bondage: Sahuarita Council, Amphi school board to ask voters for money

Sahuarita’s Town Council will vote Monday on presenting voters with a $66 million bond to pay for infrastructure and public safety.

The council will also decide whether to raise 51 fees throughout the town’s operations.

Should voters approve the bond, the town will get a multi-generational community center, better public trails, an investment in the police and fire facilities, as well as (kill me) pickle ball courts.

Putting a bond question to the Sahuarita voters is the easy part. The hard part is asking voters to raise their own secondary property taxes. The plan is to issue General Obligation bonds, which are secured by (but not necessarily funded with taxes on) property values.

Once a government issues a G.O. Bond, it can’t really default. Let’s say something goes wrong and a town council says “screw you. We ain’t paying.” Or the town finance director runs off with all the money. Something happens and the town can’t make it’s bond payment. With General Obligation bonds, a court would be tasked with raising property taxes to pay off the debt.

This is about as risk-free as it gets for investors. Also, it’s a “Muni.” In most states, people who collect interest on municipal bonds aren’t taxed on it. Pretty good deal for rich people.

The town isn’t putting a huge ask to voters, seeking to keep the average tax increase to $20 a year (in today’s dollars) for 25 years.

The fee increases are plentiful and diverse. 

They range from a $5 increase in daily small ramada rentals to $120 dollars an hour to rent Town Manager Shane Dille. No details are available in his ability to leap out of the water doing a back flip or turn a cane into a dove. Dille currently charges out at $115 an hour.

Those are almost always interdepartmental charges the city manager puts on things like enterprise funds to help pay his salary. If he does 20 hours of work for the wastewater department, wastewater would pay $2,400 for Dille’s salary and benefits.

No, Sahuarita doesn’t charge much in local taxes. The town gets more money in state shared revenue than it does in taxes collected within its limits. Fees are another matter. That’s the user- pays model. General fund revenues like sales taxes provide for an arrangement of subsidy. Fees allow people who don’t use the service to be off the hook for paying for it. For a ramada rental, that’s fine. For a public university, not so much. We get runaway tuition costs.

More money

Up on the Northwest Side, the Amphitheater Unified School District Governing Board will see Oro Valley’s bond election and raise it two overrides.

The board will vote to put an $84 million school bond on the ballot for November, along with a 10 percent override for the whole district and a 3.5 percent override for K-3.

Let’s start with the bond. If approved, it will provide investment money for new facilities, student safety, transportation and technology. All would be paid for with an increase in secondary property taxes.

The overrides just continue spending levels as they are now. Let’s not pretend they’re free.

The state limits what school districts can spend, without voter approval. The Amphi staff points out that the state still spends $1 billion less on public education than it did in 2008 (when there was an actual recession). In fact, just 18 percent of the funding has been restored from those deep cuts made during the Great Recession.

The money has since gone from tax cuts to the rich and subsidies for the well off to send their kids to elite institutions.

That part is easy to get.

Then they gotta go and call it “revenue-neutral.” Now I must flex my fingers.

Superintendent Todd Jaeger wrote in a memo to the board/public:

“While the benefits of the overrides have been remarkable and the loss of those benefits would be catastrophic to the District and its students and staff, the cost of continuing the overrides is a net sum of zero.”

No. No it’s not.

Overrides aren’t permanent. These current overrides are set to phase out next fiscal year if voters don’t extend them, therefore the taxes to pay for it are scheduled to phase out, too. If nothing happens, taxes fall. So voters are voting to raise their taxes by extending the override.

I get that its necessary. It’s just not a “net sum of zero.”

Game of chance-lor

The Pima Community College District Governing Board will be voting on a tax increase of 2.46-cent per $100 of assessed value. 

How would that affect your home? Mwahahahahhahah. It’s complicated.

Determining
the property tax depends on a house’s limited cash value. State law
restrains the speed at which assessment for tax purposes can increase
year over year. That’s why they call it the limited cash value.

Say there are two $300,000 homes. One is 30-years old. One is brand
new. The new house likely has a limited cash value pretty close to the
market value. The old one that is appreciating like mad in the current
market, would be assessed at a lower value because it’s that is inching
up under restrictions.

So the owner of a $300,000 house could have the tax assessment pegged at
$200,000 limited cash value. They would then pay about $4.90 more a year. Yeah, a
lot of reading for $5.

The board will vote on its proposed
2025 $288 million budget, which is actually down $11 million from the
current year. The state is only expected to kick in $300,000 for the
college, so it’s not waiting on legislative action.

The budget’s
key highlights include a 5 percent raise to staff and completion of
“Centers for Excellence” in health and advanced technologies.

We’ve already told you about two public meetings for chancellor finalists.

The board will interview Veronica Garcia, president of Northeast
Lakeview College in Universal City, Texas and Jeffrey Nasse, senior vice
president for academic affairs and operations at Broward College in Ft.
Lauderdale, Florida.

Garcia will be interviewed publicly Monday
at 5:30 p.m., at the district’s hearing room at 4905 E. Broadway.
Nasse’s public interview will be Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., at the same
location.

Then at 6:30 p.m., the board will go into executive session to hold a closed-door interview with both candidates. Board
members will discuss the next steps, related to choosing a chancellor
during an executive session during their Wednesday regular meeting.

Wednesday, the board will also hold public hearings on the taxes budget.

Cat foot budgets, TUSD sexual harassment

The Catalina Foothills Unified School District budget is slated to top out at $51 million.

At least, the district thinks that’s the case.

Up in Phoenix, the Legislature and governor have yet to come up with a fiscal year 2025 budget. School districts are left in a suspended state. A good chunk of Arizona’s paltry K-12 funding comes from the state treasury but without a budget, districts don’t have a lot to go on.

An expected deficit of $700 million gives local governments even more fits. How much of the budget axe will fall on them? It’s an open question. What’s clear is that the GOP leadership will consider changes to the deficit’s main drivers: A new flat tax to benefit the rich and universal school vouchers to benefit wealthier families who want their kids private school education subsidized by taxpayers.

All that’s really left is cuts elsewhere.

The board will also vote on policy updates to instruction on courses like history to reflect statewide changes that call for “instruction in state and federal constitutions, American institutions and ideals, the history of Arizona (including the history of Native Americans in Arizona), and the Holocaust and other genocides. 

God only knows how state schools superintendent Tom Horne interprets “American ideals” (white people, good?).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires schools establish a wellness committee but doesn’t specify how often it should meet. The current rule requires it to meet once a year. The update is “as often as necessary.”

I mean, OK.

Yay, local control.

Tucson Unified School District’s sexual harassment policy is up for a redo and it’s meant to provide a process of appeal, expedite the complaint process and consolidate multiple charges stemming from the same circumstance into a single investigation.

There’s also a change in the definition of a hostile environment, from the policy approved four years ago.  The existing policy defines a hostile environments as being: “So severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the District’s education program or activity.”

The new definition reads like this: “Subjectively and objectively offensive and is so severe or pervasive that it limits or denies a person’s ability to participate in or benefit from recipient’s education program or activity.”

I’m not sure how the terms “objectively” and/or “subjectively” help in either case. How does one objectively measure “hostility?” Is there a Newtonian scale I don’t know about? Subjectively is so eye of the beholder, that it has little meaning. Why not just take that part out and describe the behavior?

Why modify severe or pervasive with “so?” I mean it’s pervasive but it wasn’t “so pervasive …”

And I think the word they are looking for isn’t “pervasive,” it’s “persistent.”

The district’s governing board will also vote on its fiscal year 2025 budget, with the same obscured future facing all other local governments because: “Phoenix.”

Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo’s big push in this budget is to a move into the desegregation budget a COVID-relief-funded program which gives students direct academic interventions as soon as they start to struggle with a lesson.

It will cost about $6 million.

The desegregation budget runs $67 million and that money does not count toward the legal expenditure limit. The interventions help students of color to a disproportionate degree, therefore it is fine to use the deseg funds to pay for the program. That’s what Trujillo says.

Some of the original activists who decades ago brought the suit forcing desegregation have been angry with Trujillo for messing with the budget.

It’s exacerbated by the fact that the state is looking at a budget deficit upwards of $700 million it must balance.

New schools in Vail

The Vail Unified School District is dealing with three new schools, sort of.

There’s an actual new school slated to open for the 2025-26 school year.

Saguaro Creek K-8 is set to open in the Rocking K Ranch master-planned community a year from now. That means new boundaries will be necessary for who goes where, among the other four elementary and middle schools.

Two other schools aren’t really new schools, in the traditional sense.

There’s a program Vail has launched with the Joint Technical Education District that will allow students to get school credit for on-the-job training. 

Hence, the school is actually scattered in businesses around town. The plan is to administer the program as if it were its own brick-and-mortar school, and requires an Arizona Education Department identification number.

Same with Vail Inclusive Preschool at Mica Mountain.  The program will be requiring its own school ID number.

So the governing board is scheduled to take action Tuesday to provide for all three schools, such as they are.

Changes are afoot for the Flowing Wells Unified School District and those changes will remain cryptic until 5 p.m., Monday.

That’s when the district puts background material online to accompany its governing board agenda.

Board members will vote on a new organizational chart and a set of new goals and initiatives. I’ll update.

Down in the Sunnyside Unified School District, the governing board will vote on health and wellness policies of its own.

Students will no longer be able to opt out of physical education instruction. They will be required for graduation. That doesn’t necessarily mean “gym class.”

Under the new guidelines, students can do alternative activities like take dance, marching band, team sports or strength and conditioning. Ummm. Marching band?

I’ve never done it. I don’t feel right mocking that exemption like I might like to but … marching band? I don’t just play the piccolo. I walk while I play the piccolo.

Also, PE teachers will must have a Bachelor’s degree in education.