Sunnyside may seek bond, override votes

District must handle cuts in state aid, stimulus funds
2011-02-05T00:00:00Z 2014-08-01T11:46:24Z Sunnyside may seek bond, override votesCarmen Duarte Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 05, 2011 12:00 am  • 

The Sunnyside Unified School District is exploring the possibility of a $74 million bond election in November.

Superintendent Manuel L. Isquierdo and staff are meeting with business owners, educators and nonprofit organizations about forming an exploratory committee. The Governing Board would have the final say on forming a committee.

"This is the best opportunity to see the district through by investing in this bond. The district would be able to maintain and sustain programs for the next 10 years," Isquierdo said.

If a committee is formed, town halls would be held to inform voters about the election and encourage them to register to vote, said Hector M. Encinas, the district's chief financial officer. The Governing Board must decide by July 1 whether it will put the issue on the November ballot.

On Tuesday, the Governing Board is holding a 5:30 p.m. special study session about the $1.1 billion state budget deficit this coming fiscal year, and its impact on the district. The study session will look at funding options. It will be held at district headquarters, 2238 E. Ginter Road.

Funding options to be discussed include:

• The $74 million bond election to support and maintain computer-technology instruction and infrastructure; remodeling of schools, including new air conditioners and roofs; and new school buses. The bonds would be repaid in 25 years, assuming there is a 5 percent increase in property valuation and the bonds sell at a 6 percent interest rate.

The repayment plan would be structured so as not to increase the current debt-service requirement, meaning a homeowner's taxes would not increase. Currently, the owner of a $100,000 home is paying $138 in taxes for repayment of bonds sold in prior years.

"We have to be sensitive to what the economy can withstand and what our taxpayers can withstand. This is one of the things that will have to be considered," Encinas said.

• A 10 percent capital-outlay budget-override election to support capital improvements, new buses, and buildings and technology improvements. If it is approved, the district would receive $9 million a year for five years, $6 million the sixth year, and $3 million the seventh year. The average homeowner's taxes would increase $159 a year.

• A call for a 10 percent maintenance-and-operations budget-override election to pay for all-day kindergarten; art, music and physical education classes at elementary schools; and for teachers, counselors and campus monitors.

The current maintenance-and-operations budget is $90 million, and 85 percent of this budget is used for salaries and benefits. If the measure passes, the district would be allowed to continue receiving about $9 million a year for five years. If it is not approved, the district would have to reduce its maintenance-and-operations budget in 2012-13 by $3 million, and do so each year through 2014-15.

The board also will discuss proposed state cuts, including:

• A $1.6 million cut in federal funding created by stimulus funds over 2 1/2 years. Half of that funding has already been spent on staff positions, and the board will have to figure out where it can make up the difference.

• A $1 million cut in the unrestricted capital-outlay budget, and $3.1 million in the soft-capital budget. These reductions will halt the ability to sustain technology gains in the classroom.

These proposed cuts for the 2011-12 budget by the Legislature are on top of cuts made in the current budget. A $141 million budget was approved for this school year - $41 million less than the 2009-10 budget.

The Sunnyside district is the second-largest in the Tucson area, with 22 schools, 17,500 students and 2,145 employees.

Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at 573-4104 or cduarte@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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