Cave Creek Road

This sign was put up by a resident along Cave Creek Road. 

Unofficial election results show 48% in favor of and 52% against the $42 million bond proposed by Cave Creek Unified School District.

The Maricopa County Elections Department reported that nearly all ballots had been accounted for at press time. There were 22,236 ballots cast in Cave Creek — a 41.35% turnout. The jurisdiction had the second largest voter turnout, only behind Fountain Hills, which had 41.53%.

“Although this was not the outcome we predicted, we respect the collective vote of our constituents and we are committed to providing all CCUSD students with an education of the highest quality,” Superintendent Cort Monroe said in a public statement Nov. 5.

CCUSD has seven schools. The total estimated cost of the bond would have been $59,077,000 including principal and interest. The proposed funds would have been split up with $4.8 million for new technology, $1 million for safety and security, $3 million for sports facility upgrades, $27.4 million for general facility upgrades and maintenance, $3.8 million for buses, and $11 million to pay off debt from a previous project. The cost to the average homeowner would have been $42 a year.

Some parents said that while the funds could be used to help the schools, the district has increased its administrative spending and cut programs. Nate Weddle, a parent of CCUSD students, said that before committing to a bond he would like to see administration better manage the money.

“The school district should start looking at how they are spending their money rather than asking for more,” said Heather Maldonado, another parent of CCUSD students.

Monroe, however, said that’s the way Arizona’s education system is set up. He said state funding is limited and has been cut over the past few years, so the district has to rely on local taxpayers.

“This is what school districts do,” Monroe said. “We’re the only unified school district in Maricopa County that doesn’t have a bond or an override, and that’s very telling. We try to look for creative funding options, but all those other districts have local taxpayers where the voters support the schools through a bond or an override.”

While Monroe’s statement about other unified districts in Maricopa County having a bond or override is true, it is worth noting that CCUSD only has 5,304 students, according to reports from the auditor general and Arizona Department of Education. The average number of students out of the 16 unified districts in Maricopa County is more than 19,000. Even when accounting for large outliers like Mesa and Chandler, the median amount of students equates to more than 17,000.

In a previous interview with the Foothills Focus regarding school spending, Marcie Rodrigez, chief financial officer for the district, said CCUSD’s finances should not be compared to those of districts because of the difference in size. Taking her word into consideration, “the other unified districts” should not be the basis of reason for a $42 million bond.

Some are noting the high voter turnout and taking that as a victory in itself.

“I think that with a strong turnout like we had, it’s a win whether the vote is yes or no,” parent Holly Weddle said. “The real goal is that people take the time to vote and have their voice heard. I think the fact that the majority did not want the bond sends a strong message. My hope is that CCUSD leadership will hear the voices of the community and try to work together with the community to come up with solutions.”

In an interview with Monroe the day before the election, he said that’s exactly what they plan to do. The failure to pass the bond will not be the end of CCUSD, and there are other ways to secure revenue. 

“We’re always looking for creative ways to have partnerships and grants and organizations like the Kiwanis, all these great organizations that support us,” Monroe said. “So, it’s not doom and gloom if the bond doesn’t pass. We are immediately going into meetings to plan for plan B, but it’s not like the sky is falling. We regroup and we continue to provide a high level of education for our kids.”