The Kyrene School District Governing Board approved final adjustments to the 2011-12 budget on Tuesday and set its sights to next year. On Monday, Gov. Jan Brewer signed the state budget, which solidified the numbers the district will be working with next year, but it will be significantly less than what voters originally wanted.
House Bill 2405 died in the Arizona State Senate Rules Committee last week after having been passed through the House of Representatives by a 41-19 vote. The bill would have allowed Kyrene and other school districts across Arizona to increase its bond limit capacity, a number tied to the total assessed property values within the district. A voter-approved 2010 bond authorization gave the district approval to utilize $116 million over the next 10 years to maintain its 26 facilities. This stayed within the limitation of 5 percent of total assessed property value for the district, however, the recent decline of property values has caused the district to exceed the limitation. HB 2405 would have bumped that to 10 percent, which would have given the district access to the funds that are necessary to properly maintain its facilities.
It was “held” in the Senate Rules Committee by Senate president and committee chairman Steve Pierce and never reached the floor for a vote.
Voters approved $116 million in bonds in 2010, but the district has yet to spend a dollar of it and now, because HB 2405 died, it is now considered “basically worthless” at the present time, according to Kyrene CFO Jeremy Calles.
Sen. John McComish, R-Ahwatukee, said recently Pierce was warned that if the bill went through it would raise taxes on homeowners within the district.
“We do it in a way so homeowners don’t see any significant change in tax rate,” Calles said, referring to how Kyrene structures its repayment of the bond, which affects the tax rate by homeowners. “Pierce was out of line and it shows he doesn’t know how bonds work. Anyone who has refinanced a house before would understand how you can take on more debt without doubling your mortgage payment.”
Dr. David Schauer, superintendent of Kyrene, spoke recently about his frustrations toward the Legislature in the way it handled HB 2405.
“Arizona has been 49th or 50th in funding in the nation ... why can’t we pass a bill that has no increased burden on funding levels?” he said. “It’s very frustrating for me because the community already said they wanted it.”
Money from the bond would have gone to repair, maintenance and safety projects, Calles said, and many of them have been cancelled because that money was expected.
“We have dozens of projects that we had to cancel,” Schauer said.
The previous bond could go into effect if property values jumped up significantly or, less likely, the Legislature could revisit HB 2405 if it decides to return for a special session.
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