Mesa Unified School District hopes to upgrade its technology, repair aging buildings and renovate or rebuild transportation hubs if voters approve the sale of $230 million in bonds in November.
The district’s governing board approved the decision to put the bond package on the Nov. 6 ballot by a 5-0 vote Tuesday night.
A facilities planning committee that included community members, district staff and board members had recommended an eight-year, $285 million bond package.
But the governing board was concerned about asking for that dollar amount — which would have been the largest bond question in the history of Arizona — given the state of the economy. The largest bond question ever put on a ballot was $235 million by the Tucson Unified School District. That measure was approved by voters.
After looking at the district’s bonding capacity over the next five years, and what projects were planned in future years, the Mesa board decided on the lesser amount.
The district has $244 million in existing bond debt — which includes funds from a 2005 voter-approved bond package, the governing board was told Tuesday night.
Those bond funds are set to be retired over the next eight years at a rate of about $34.6 million for the first seven years and a final payment of about $5 million.
Each year those debts are paid opens more bonding capacity for the district. Board members said Tuesday that because the district is limited with its bonding capacity, it didn’t seem necessary to ask for such a large bond package as proposed at this time.
Voters approved a $212.5 million bond package in 2005. The district sold and used all but about $8 million that was identified for new schools, which were not needed.
The 2012 bond package will include about $70 million for technology and technology infrastructure, about $120 in repairs and renovations, funds to purchase buses, renovate the transportation hubs and demolish portions of Mesa Junior High School as deemed appropriate.
Approval to sell the bonds doesn’t mean that they all will be sold, Superintendent Mike Cowan told the board. Just like the 2005 bond package, if funds are found elsewhere or it is determined something doesn’t need to be done, the money would not be used.
The district is planning to apply for emergency building renewal funds from the state, the board was told, to address roof and sewer issues. But since it is unknown if those requests will be approved, and those issues need to be addressed, they are included in the bond request, Cowan said.
The state took over funding repairs and renovations of school facilities — as well as construction — after being ordered to by the courts several years ago. But because of the state of Arizona’s economy, building renewal funds for school districts have not be allocated, except for emergency dollars. Next fiscal year, there is about $12.5 million in the state budget for emergency building funds to cover all school districts in Arizona.
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