By Jessica Gonzalez, member of Support Our School PAC
Quality schools have been shown to increase property values, reduce crime and attract jobs and economic opportunities to the communities where they are located.
Peoria voters will soon be asked to decide whether or not to provide millions of dollars in funding to the Peoria Unified School District through the Maintenance & Operations Override, which is not a new tax, and a Critical Needs Bond ballot measure, which does not increase the tax rate.
Residents without kids in school or who send their children to public or private schools may believe the bond and override initiatives do not impact them. But local business leaders disagree.
“While reality TV glamorizes home remodels, the truth remains that vibrant local schools have some of the greatest impact on a home’s value,” says local realtor Lisa Copley.
According to the National Association of REALTORS®, 25% of home buyers list school quality and 20% list proximity to schools as deciding factors in their home purchase.
Scot Andrews, president and CEO of the Peoria Chamber of Commerce, believes the support of education plays a strategic role in Peoria’s ability to attract economic opportunities and jobs.
“Peoria attracts new business because we have built a reputation of safe and well-maintained schools, small class sizes, offering quality programs,” Andrews says. “With your full support it will stay that way.”
How will the funding be used for schools in north Peoria?
Peoria Unified has had a voter approved override in place for more than 23 years. The Maintenance and Operations Override on the November ballot maintains that funding.
At all Peoria Unified schools, the override funds:
• 100% of teacher salaries for all day kindergarten
• 78% of the salaries for assistant principals
• 84% of school athletic and extracurricular programs
• 53% of band, music and art programs
• 96% of salaries for school nurses
• 57% of the salaries for P.E. teachers
• 100% of school gifted programs
• 12% of specialized reading programs
Voting yes to renew the override continues to provide an important $29 million in funding to district schools.
A no vote would result in:
• Pay cuts for all staff
• Not having a school nurse on every campus
• Not having an assistant principal on every campus
• Larger class sizes
• Fewer arts, music, physical education and gifted education programs
• A charge for full-day kindergarten
• Higher fees related to athletic and extracurricular activities
• Fewer athletic and extracurricular activities
Critical Needs Bond
The bond proposed by Peoria Unified will not raise the tax rate in Peoria.
Unlike the Maintenance and Operations Override, which supports people and programs, bond funding can only be used for projects that have a useful life of more than five years.
Voting yes on the bond initiative invests in school security and critical renovations. The bond will provide repairs and replacements for a multitude of projects on school campuses including restroom renovations, heating units, air conditioning units, parking lot repairs, roof repairs and irrigation system repairs.
A study by commissioned by the district from ADM Group and ThinkSmart Planning, found that the 32 elementary schools in Peoria Unified will need more than $60 million in high and medium priority repairs and upgrades in the next five years.
The costs in north Peoria include:
• Coyote Hills Elementary / Peoria Traditional School – more than $1.7 million
• Lake Pleasant Elementary School – just under $1 million
• Sunset Heights Elementary School – more than $700,000
• Vistancia Elementary School – more than $1 million
The critical needs bond would also provide $13 million to purchase land for a new high school in north Peoria that will help relieve overcrowding at Liberty and Sunrise Mountain High Schools.
The study by ADM Group and ThinkSmart Planning found more than $23 million in high and medium priority repairs and upgrades are needed at the seven Peoria Unified high schools.
In north Peoria, that funding includes:
• Liberty High School – more than $2.5 million
• Sunrise Mountain High School – more than $3 million
Additionally, the bond would be used to replace student and staff computers, servers and technology infrastructure; and to replace aging transportation vehicles including special education and activity buses.
“This election isn’t just about school funding, it’s about the kind of community we want to live in,” says Matt Bullock, chairperson of the Support Peoria Schools political action committee, “We have the opportunity to reaffirm our community supports students, education, property values, business interests and economic opportunity. Vote Yes for the Peoria Unified bond and override initiatives.”