Editor's Note: Greg Mengarelli, representing a local citizen committee considering the need for a school bond, made the following comments to the PUSD School Board Tuesday night. At the end of the discussion, the Board unanimously voted in favor of putting the issue of a district bond on the ballot.
Governing Board Members, PUSD teachers, staff and administrators, community members and fellow parents. I would like to first thank you for the opportunity to be here on behalf of our community and families. I am very proud to live in this great community and be involved in our local schoo1 district. On a personal note, I have had 2 of my sons graduate from PHS. I currently have 1 son and a daughter at PHS, a daughter at Mile High Middle School, and a daughter and son at Christian Academy. You could say that I'm pretty familiar with our schools!?
Governing Board Members, as a part of your desire to study the need for a school bond, you asked Mr. Smucker, our Superintendent to put together a group of community members to consider the feasibility and need for a school bond. Tonight if is my distinct honor to represent a group of volunteers who have been working countless hours since January of this year on this very issue. The school bond committee is very confident and excited tonight to share with you our findings. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to this hard working group of volunteers. I trust that your work will not be in vain.
Before I get into some of the details of what is in the bond, I would first like to talk about the need for a bond and the benefits the bond will have for our community, our businesses, our families and our students.
I believe Strong Schools - Build Strong Communities, Communities that value and invest in their local schools: stimulate the local economy, increase property values, sustain an educated workforce, attract professionals including physicians and other health care specialists, attract new business and industry, and communities who invest in their local schools support 21st century educational systems.
A respected community member Mr. John Amos, the COO of YRMC wanted to speak this evening but had a previous commitment. I would like to read one excerpt from his letter that he submitted to the Governing Board in regard to recruiting physician candidates,
"We always hit a home run with our mild four season climate, service amenities, housing, recreation, healthcare services, proximity to a large metropolitan area, practice and career opportunities, etc. Our communities have a lot to offer and sell themselves very well. However, the majority of our physician candidates and their spouses come with stated concerns, stories and the perception Arizona Public Schools are not competitive with the rest of the nation. They frequently quote statistics indicating how our funding, student achievement, facilities, teacher salaries, programs offered, etc. fall in the lower quartile when benchmarked against other states. As a result, we lose them to competing communities and neighboring states on this issue alone."
As you can see from Mr. Amos' letter, they have great difficulty recruiting the necessary professionals to our local hospitals and clinics due to our current public education system.
Effectively educating our children is a fundamental social obligation for a democratic society, and many studies have directly correlated public investments in education with long-term economic benefit for individuals and society. Great public schools are a key recruiting and retention tool for every expanding business in Prescott, and as long as these companies can successfully hire superlative talent, Prescott's economy will continue to blossom. Furthermore, the value of every home in Prescott is directly affected by its proximity to public schools, as well as the perceived educational quality of those schools. Passing this bond proposal will increase the value of all properties as if makes the nearby schools more desirable, higher-quality institutions. The increase in each homeowner's property value alone is likely to significantly outweigh the additional property tax increase. When I am finished with my presentation, I would like to ask Mr. Gisi and Mayor Kuykendall to the podium to speak more about attracting businesses and increasing property values.
Some questions you may be asking yourself are... Is there really a need for this bond? Isn't the state legislature funding enough? Does the School District need money for building maintenance, safety, athletic facilities and technology? Good questions. Before I try to answer those questions, let me give you just a few relevant facts regarding the funding of public education in Arizona:
In Arizona during the past four years, over $1.4 Billion has been out from K-12 education. Since 2008 there has been a 21.8% statewide decrease in education funding (more than any other state).
Arizona's spending per pupil ranks 47th among the 50 states. And the PUSD spending per pupil is well below the state. (Pusd $6,459; State, $7,475)
Arizona has the lowest per pupil spending on administration in the country.
The average Teacher Salary in our District is $42,655 State Average $44,193 National Average is $56,069
I don't know about you, but these kinds of numbers are staggering and embarrassing. We can, and we MUST do better for our community and our children. The State Legislature has sent a very clear message to us with their recent lack of funding... we must stand up and fund our schools locally. There is "too much month at the end of the money," our reserves and resources have been depleted. It is time we take local control and properly fund our schools to give our children the best education possible. Our teachers, staff and administrators have worked very hard with what we have given them, and I applaud them for the job they have done. They have produced students that graduate with a great education that prepares them for the future, but it is time for us as a community to deliver an even higher level of education so we can compete in the world market. lt is time Prescott, that we make a statement about how much we value education in our community. It is time we properly fund our schools so we can deliver a 21st century education so our students can compete globally for the best jobs the world has to offer. lt it time we educate ourtelves as a community to the needs of our schools and get involved. We must differentiate ourselves as a local community in our state to attract the professionals needed to sustain a vibrant and growing community. Tonight, we submit to you a School Bond proposal that would address the needs of our schools in the near future. These needs include: Technology, Safety, Energy Management, Building Maintenance, Athletic Facilities, and Transportation.
In the area of technology we are woefully inadequate. Our current computers are typically over 6 years old. Most of our computers come from other districts when they upgrade. In order to compete in the global market we must invest in the latest and best technology available. This bond will improve the infrastructure and end user experience. Our bond committee met with the IT department at Paradise Valley School. During that visit we received a vision of what our schools could become with the improvement of our IT division.
This bond addresses Safety issues in our schools. We all know the importance of protecting our most precious asset... our children. Unfortunately our world presents more threats than ever to our safety.
This bond also addresses the need for 21st century facilities for extracurricular activities. Many of our venues are aging and need improvement so we can compete at a higher level. This bond proposal will address many building maintenance needs. Despite scarce resources, the district has taken a number of steps to address building problems and slow the deterioration of schools. The average age of our schools is 67 years. We have two schools well over 100 years old and our newest school is 26 years old. These deferred maintenance issues must be addressed soon or the costs to fix the existing problems will escalate exponentially in the near future.
Finally this bond will help in many areas with energy efficiency. There are many cost saving measures in this bond proposal that will manage resources more efficiently.
Our last bond occurred in 2004, where a committee much like this one proposed an $18.7M bond. The district administrators did a good job then delivering better facilities for our district and everything was accomplished that was stated in that bond. We as a committee believe the current administration is capable of doing the same job they did then. In addition, if this bond passes, we are proposing a Citizen Accountability Committee that will actively scrutinize the district's planning and implementation of the bond program. This committee will work with our district staff to bring accountability to the delivery of the projects in this bond.
Our current bonding capacity allowed by Arizona state law is $75.8M the bond proposal that we submit to you tonight is $27.9M. We have scrutinized each line item and feel confident that the money will be well spent for the education of our children.
It is time that we invest in our community and our children and we believe that the passage of this bond will do just that. We would urge you to vote in favor of moving forward with this school bond for the betterment of our community.