Nov 7, 2023 - News

Election Day 2023: Metro Phoenix school races on your ballot

Two campaign signs - one encouraging a yes vote on a school bond election and the other encouraging a no vote.

Photo: Jeremy Duda/Axios Phoenix

Tuesday's sleepy off-year election has one dramatic side story: heated campaigns for and against local school funding.

Why it matters: Most Valley districts have long counted on voter-approved bonds and overrides to bolster the education funding they receive from the state.

State of play: About two dozen Valley districts are asking voters to approve measures that will increase local school funding — mostly through a bond, override or both.

  • A bond allows districts to take on debt to finance large-scale capital projects like building a new school or replacing buses.
  • An override allows districts to increase their budget by up to 15% over seven years to pay for maintenance and operations. This money can be used for teacher and staff raises.

How it works: Both bonds and overrides are funded via property tax levies on homeowners within a district.

  • Because many districts have had bond and override financing in place for decades, homeowners usually don't see their tax rates go up when these items are approved — it just stays the same.
  • That said, if these measures fail and this funding stream ceases, property owners would likely see their tax rates decrease.

Between the lines: Support for school funding has ebbed and flowed in recent years, but typically, districts have been able to garner enough support to pass the measures within a year of their first attempt.

Yes, but: There's been a willful — and possibly coordinated — effort to oppose school ballot initiatives in nearly every district in the Valley this year. Next to almost every "vote yes" sign, you'll find a counter-argument warning against "wasteful spending" and tax increases.

What they're saying: "Like all politics, it's gotten more partisan in school elections over the last few cycles," local political consultant Paul Bentz told Arizona's Family.


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