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Stakes even higher for rural school districts going into special election

Phoenix Country Day School
Posted at 6:00 AM, Oct 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-28 14:07:39-04

After November 5, nearly half the school districts in Maricopa County will start planning their futures based on what voters decide in the special election. Many are relying on bonds or overrides to help fill a growing funding gap but the stakes are even higher for rural districts.

Drive about 50 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix and you will find the Nadaburg Unified School District. With just more than 1,200 students and two K-8 schools in Wittmann and Surprise, the district is small but the needs are great.

"Security, both physical and cyber security, transportation, instructional technology," said Dr. Aspasia Angelou, who took over as superintendent July 1 of 2019.

She says the $2.4 million bond going to the voters would help pay for much-needed upgrades. It would also expedite her main mission of starting a high school program. First, the district wants to renovate their current space, then eventually build a new facility. However, if history is any indication, passing that bond will not be easy.

"We had elections that were conducted and did not pass in 2012, 2014, 2015 and last year 2018, that vote did not pass by 59 votes," said Dr. Angelou.

Nadaburg Unified is in a unique situation. With no high school, it buses 350 high school students more than 20 miles to schools in the Wickenburg and Dysart districts. The legislation that helps fund that is set to expire in June of 2020 and if that happens, and the bond does not pass, things could get really dire.

"That would be something that would, in effect, bankrupt our district," said Dr. Angelou.

The district is already on a 4-day school week to cut costs. It has also combined busing routes and overhauled HVAC and lighting systems to save money. If passed, the bond would mean a monthly tax increase of $3.11 for a home valued just more than $138,000. It is a big ask when many residents are on fixed incomes.

"You just don't have the kind of tax base that you have in larger, urban areas and so therefore it puts a greater burden on the folks in the community," said Dr. Angelou. "It's more challenging to pass the bond here."

This is an all mail-in election. You can find more information about your district and ballot drop-off centers here.