TRUSTED NEWS LEADER FOR COTTONWOOD, CAMP VERDE & THE VERDE VALLEY
Tue, Feb. 18

MY TURN: TIRED OF INCREASING TAXES, VOTE NO ON MINGUS BOND

I am shocked at how few have expressed their public opinion in opposition to the MUHS Bond extravaganza.

"The Arizona School Facilities Board, (called "Students First"), administers the state's requirements for correcting school facilities and equipment deficiencies under ARS 15-2002 and 15-2021. The Board contracts for construction services and materials and purchased equipment that are necessary to correct existing deficiencies in the school district facilities." (USFR-Office of the Auditor General).

District construction costs, including all new schools, and remodels, are based in part on student membership counts, growth, repairs, priorities (emergencies), etc. These funds are produced in major portion by state income and sales taxes. Local bond overrides, (financed by local property taxes), are in addition to funds that can be procured for construction, repair purposes, and new school buildings through the state.

Priorities are determined in part by the state ASFB "construction" Board, based on information and application formulas provided by school districts.

Do not be deceived. According to ASFB, last year Mingus applied for Building Renewal Funds of $248,568 and was approved for $132,555. This year the "formula" allowed them to apply for $302,509 and they were approved for $161,654. So, the question is raised, where was nearly $300,000 spent on "repairs" the last two years? This wasn't enough? Where did the money go for the last few overrides passed not many years ago?

Yes, with state-provided tax credits, MUHS still has a band, football, field trips and other extracurricular activities.

If "huge" growth seems the issue, look again. MUHS membership/enrollment has decreased annually for the last four years. According to the Department of Education, State Finance, October Enrollment Counts, provided by MUHS, S.A.I.S. counts (Student Accountability Information System), from a high in 2000-01 of 1,333, decreasing annually as follows: (2002-03): 1,237, (2003-04):,1,227, (2004-5):,1,222 and to a low last year (2005-06): of 1,212. This doesn't sound like a freight train of growth activity to justify a new school or tremendous remodeling expenses.

Most Charter schools would be thrilled to have a facility with only a few cracks in the wall and they would be happy to take over their "obsolete" computer technology equipment, gym seats, etc. How much is one willing to pay for Cadillac facilities? A great teacher in Cottonwood once told me: "Give me a chalk board and a tent over my head and I can teach!"

You will never see a charter school on your property tax rolls, or "Students First" funding from the state. It is illegal for charters to finance facilities in this manner. They must build their buildings the old-fashioned way: budget wisely, acquire commercial loans, donations, and "make do" with whatever they can get within their non-profit budgets. Budget incomes are typically 20-25 percent lower than "traditional" schools.

Charters must provide as good or better academic education than "traditional public" schools, and do it for less.

Property tax, a sheriff-imposed "rent" on your "own" property, is really unconstitutional and should be repealed. Even renters pay extra to their landlords as these taxes are passed on monthly. My personal residential property taxes are now three times what my original house payments were. The assessor says, "But look what your house is worth in comparison to others sold nearby?" And my retort is, "It's only worth as much as you say if I sell, and I don't intend to sell, so therefore the assessed value is untrue, unrealized, and un-gained until I sell."

If over 60 percent of the valley is "retired" and a large percentage of those are on "fixed" incomes, everyone needs to get out and vote NO on increasing taxes. MUHS is asking for too much and the bond should be emphatically voted down. If you don't vote, you suffer the consequence.

Steve Anderson is the administrator of the American Heritage Academy charter school.

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