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Future safety initiatives and key programs riding on Peoria Unified's override ask

Posted at 4:00 AM, Oct 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-21 08:35:49-04

PEORIA, AZ — Nearly 80 percent of Maricopa County residents will be voting on a school district bond or override in the November 5 special election and many families in Peoria will be watching the outcome closely.

Jennifer Pulbratek is used to the chaos of juggling two jobs, two kids and dozens of students at Cactus High School, but there is one thing last year's "Arts Educator of the Year" will not ever get used to.

"I am so tired of fighting for my job, I am so tired of it," said Pulbratek.

Pulbratek survived massive cuts at her former district when its override didn't pass in 2014. "One hundred forty-three teachers were cut and it was really devastating," she said.

Voters rejected Peoria Unified's bond initiatives in 2016 and 2018, but hope to pass a 15 percent override in November.

"A number of those programs the override funds, we would look to either reduce or have to eliminate," said Danielle Airey, chief communications officer for the Peoria Unified School District.

The district's 13 percent override has been in place for 23 years and pays for assistant principals, school nurses, physical education, full-day kindergarten and a host of extracurricular activities. The bump to 15 percent would generate an extra $5 million to help fund current and future safety initiatives.

"Some of that may be hiring counselors, providing safety-related training to our staff, looking to hire behavior specialists," said Airey.

If passed most residents would pay between $2 and $6 more per month in property taxes. Some against the override have taken their stance to social media.

A post on the LD21 AZ Republicans Facebook page says, in part, "The last time this passed it just squeaked by with a slim margin. But now over 15% of the parents of school age children now send their kids to charter schools, and the vast majority of these parents have gone from a yes to a no because of this. That along with the mail in election, and the tax increase are going to make it a hard battle. If they would have just asked for the former 1.51% of Assessed LPV instead of going up to 1.74 the yes side could have framed it as a renewal, and that it would stay the same, and in that case I think many more people would have voted yes....but they got greedy, they thought a special election would ensure them a victory, and they would have been right if it was not an all mail in election."

Still Pulbratek says she will keep hoping her community buys in.

"I would love for there to be a time when we're not depending on overrides and we get state funding that we need," said Pulbratek, "but that's not now."

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