October is the month when hunting season begins on most species, including deer, elk, small game, etc. But the most significant prey being hunted this year is the AZ taxpayer. School boards throughout the state are salivating at the prospect of “bagging a limit” of taxpayers, using their favorite weapons, namely bonds and overrides.
A typical example of what is happening statewide may be found at the Paradise Valley Unified School District in northeast Phoenix. Those of us who refuse to be preys of these predatory school boards are suggesting:
VOTE “NO” ON BOTH THE BOND AND THE OVERRIDE.
It should be noted that the information provided herein to support our opinion may be fact checked by going to the original sources, namely Arizona Auditor General, https://www.azauditor.gov/sites/default/files/19-203_Report_With_Pages.pdf and our own recently issued property tax statements.
Here are some reasons why we are recommending a NO vote:
1. WE ARE SPENDING MORE THAN ENOUGH ON EDUCATION ALREADY.
A quick glance at the latest PVUSD property tax statement reveals that we are spending 60% of our tax dollars on education. But even that high number is artificially low because if we factor in State Aid, the percentage that goes to education becomes a huge 77%. That leaves 23% of our property tax to pay for all other necessary items, such as law enforcement, infrastructure, roads, prisons, etc.
That is on top of a lot of other funding sources, such as Prop 123 gutting of the state trust land fund, extension of the sales tax increase, and the 20×2020 funding hike.
So, how much is enough? Ask any member of the Education/Government complex and you will never get a straight answer, beyond claiming that education is grossly underfunded. This has led some of us to suggest a tongue-in-cheek answer: “As much as they can extract from gullible tax payers”. That silly answer may be more accurate than one might think, because this year the second largest source of property tax levies, 28.73%, came from voters in the district. The number one source of property tax levying? School boards, of course, at 41.62% of the levy.
2. SCHOOL DISTRICTS ARE NOT SPENDING OUR TAX MONEY WISELY.
Until districts show some significant improvement on the management of their funds, additional funding should be limited to the rate of student enrollment plus the rate of inflation. This entails voting NO on the current bond and override increase to be voted on in November.
Teacher pay is possibly the most misleading claim made by proponents of bond issues and tax overrides. Most fair-minded people, including this writer, agree that teachers should be paid a fair and decent wage, so we are misled into believing that a YES vote will lead to higher teacher pay. But the reality is that teachers are consistently getting the short end of the stick here. Most people are not aware that teacher pay at PVUSD has actually been declining despite huge funding increases and promises of pay raises. According to the AZ Auditor General, average teacher pay at PVUSD has gone from $52,533 in 2013 to $46,564 in 2018, a decline of 11.36%. But that fact has not prevented proponents of bond/override schemes to use teacher pay increase as a major point in their quest for more money.
With all the claims for the need of additional money, one may think that there has been a huge increase in the number of students served by PVUSD. But the opposite is true. In 2001 there were 33,681 students and in 2018 there were only 30,358, a reduction of 9.86% in the number of students being served by the district.
With the steady reduction on enrollment and the steady decline in teacher pay, one may wonder why schools need additional funding. More importantly, we may ask where previous funding increases have gone. We don’t know the answer but may venture an educated guess at a partial answer by noticing that the administrative cost per student has seen a 15.63% increase between 2013 and 2018.
Hopefully the foregoing material will encourage taxpayers to do their own research, and investigate thoroughly, the upcoming bond/override proposed increases before casting their vote, instead of relying on the proponents’ often inflated and/or misleading claims.
The AZ legislative session will convene in early January. Here is a shameless plug from this author, aimed at those who wish to participate:
Arizona citizens who wish to be informed about legislative activity at the state level will benefit from visiting https://www.facebook.com/AZRRT/ on a regular basis.
Folks who do not use Facebook may still obtain valuable information by requesting inclusion on the AZRRT’s distribution list by sending a request via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Those who wish to be proactive in the legislative process will find some very useful tools by going to https://azpeopleslobbyist.com/