BY LINDA BENTLEY | AUGUST 27, 2014
How much money will be enough for CCUSD93?
The district just can’t seem to allow voter approved bonds to go unused
CCUSD93 – One question we’ve asked over and over again of Cave Creek Unified School District 93, but it refuses to answer, “How much money will be enough?”
As readers may recall, CCUSD93 lost a legal battle when it attempted to use voter approved bond money for purposes other than those authorized by voters.
When the governing board voted to use bond money for purposes other than those approved by voters the Goldwater Institute, on behalf of district residents Jayne Friedman and Rich Bail, sued and won.
About eight years ago, the governing board voted to issue bonds approved by voters in 2000 that would have expired in 2006 had they not been issued.
The governing board also voted to build a middle school it didn’t need, only because it had access to taxpayer money, and, while it was under construction, the district referred to it as a “flex” school to accommodate the yet-to-be-determined grade levels.
The district just can’t seem to allow voter approved bonds to go unused.
Instead of using approximately $10 million of the excess bond money to pay down the bond debt and provide district residents with a little tax relief, the district is going back to the voters in November, asking them to “repurpose” the excess bond money in order to pay for repairs to existing facilities that should have already been made with money it had available.
Instead, the district decided to expand the Cactus Shadows High School cafeteria and purchase more furniture, as a priority over other capital needs, such as repairing roofs, which recent rains proved should have been a priority.
Now the district wants voters to authorize the “repurposing” of the old bonds for repairs the board says are necessary to “provide safe and well-maintained schools that will continue to provide the learning environment that results in Cave Creek Unified having all ‘A’ rated schools.”
If voters do not authorize the repurposing of the existing bond funds, the money, which is currently on deposit with the Maricopa County Treasurer’s office, will be used to pay off some of the district’s $13 million existing bond debt.
But that’s not all. The district is also placing a $30 million bond measure on the November ballot.
The $30 million is for district-wide maintenance and repairs that should have been performed over the years with money the district had available to it for many of those purposes.
This is a district with a fleeing student population, due, in part, to decisions made by the current administration to close the A-rated Desert Arroyo Middle School and transfer all middle school students to the lower rated Sonoran Trails Middle School located in the “flex” school at the far southern reaches of the district’s boundaries.
The district closed the old Black Mountain Shadows Elementary School and decided to turn it into the “Learning Center.” It has since moved the district’s administrative offices over there, after spending some money to repurpose the facilities.
Building new administration offices was never a priority for taxpayers and they voted against every bond measure that included new administrative facilities.
Nonetheless, Superintendent Debbi Burdick seemed to find the funding to get those new offices anyway.
The district lost over 600 students from 2008, when it reported enrollment of 5,963 students, to 5,361 in 2013.
Converting Desert Sun Elementary School, which was built in a flood plain, to an “academy” and adopting the highly controversial Common Core curriculum didn’t bode well with some parents, while taxpayers and parents alike disagreed with the latest stunt, orchestrated by District 15 Rep. Heather Carter, to convert all of its schools allowed by law into district run charter schools, solely for the purpose of obtaining more taxpayer money. The district lost 426 students in just the last two years.
Carter may also be thanked for voting in favor of a law to allow school districts to double the amount of bond indebtedness from 10 percent to 20 percent of their budgets.
The district, in 2012, spent just under $8,000 per student, higher than the state average of $7,475.
While overall spending per pupil has increased in Arizona since 2001, there has been a steady decline in the amount of money being directed to the classroom. CCUSD93 directs 53.9 percent of its spending to the classroom, a decrease from 56.7 percent with an overall decrease of 10 percent in per pupil spending over the past five years.
Instructional spending at adjacent unified school districts is 58.9 percent at Deer Valley, 54.6 percent at Fountain Hills, 57.1 percent at Paradise Valley is 57.1 and 57.9 percent at Scottsdale.