Higley USD officials make case for another bond attempt

Amy Kaylor
Amy Kaylor was elected president of the Higley USD governing board for 2022 at the board's Jan. 12 meeting. (Screenshot via YouTube)

Amy Kaylor was elected president of the Higley USD governing board for 2022 at the board's Jan. 12 meeting. (Screenshot via YouTube)

Higley USD officials told the governing board Jan. 12 that the district should make another attempt at getting voters to approve a bond for the district because of its middle school leases, facility conditions and growing student population.

However, district officials have not decided how much it should ask for from the voters and will only decide on details after surveying district voters over the next two weeks, according to the presentation made to the board at its business meeting.

Chief Financial Officer Tyler Moore, who was absent from the meeting, outlined the reasons via a video he prerecorded for the meeting.

Moore called the middle school leases “the elephant in the room,” a burden that eats up 73% of the district’s capital budget each year and crowds out the district’s ability to address other capital issues, such as maintenance and the need for additional space.

Board member Kristina Reese agreed, saying the leases on Sossaman and Cooley middle schools put HUSD into a unique situation among schools in the state.

The district used 40-year lease-purchase agreements to build the middle schools in Gilbert and Queen Creek after voters turned down bonds to build them. The schools opened in 2013.

Paying off one of the leases was a major component of the district’s $95 million bond ask last fall, but voters turned it down by a 9% margin despite no organized opposition group.

Moore pointed out the district will pay out more than $168 million for the schools over the next 31 years before the leases expire in fiscal year 2052-53, making them costly for the district’s taxpayers.

Additionally, Moore said the district’s buildings average 14.9 years in age and are increasingly costly to maintain and repair. The district also has needs for more space as it projects 8% growth over the next five years.

Moore showed the board a schedule in which it will review survey results and outline the spending priorities at its next board meeting Feb. 9. It will have one more bond review Feb. 23 before considering a resolution March 9 calling for a bond election this year.

In other business, the board elected Amy Kaylor as its president for the year and Michelle Anderson as vice president.

Kaylor, who served as president in 2020, replaces Reese, while Anderson succeeds Jill Wilson. Kaylor is in her final year of her term on the board and has said she will not run again.
By Tom Blodgett

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.