ELOY — Last month Andrew Rodriguez asked fellow Eloy City Council members if there was something they could do to show their support for the Santa Cruz Valley Union High School District’s budget override.
He asked City Manager Harvey Krauss if there was something the council could do individually or if they could adopt a resolution.
“It’s very crucial right now for the high school to do it,” Rodriguez said during the Sept. 28 council meeting. “Maybe in the future, before the election the council can pass a resolution for it; if not, I hope each council member can individually go out in public and sponsor it.”
Vice Mayor Micah Powell added the idea of a resolution for the Toltec School District bond proposal because part of the district is within Eloy city boundaries.
On Monday the council did adopt a resolution supporting voter authorization of the high school district’s 10% budget override and the Toltec School District bond.
The council approved both resolutions in a 6-0 vote as Councilman J.W. Tidwell abstained from voting on both.
“The schools are important to the city for our economic development efforts — in terms of expanding existing businesses and attracting new businesses, schools are an essential function and an important element of that,” Krauss told the council.
After failing to pass the override the past two years, the district made hefty budget cuts this summer and is hoping to prevent making further cuts in the future with a 10% override instead of the previous 15%.
“We desperately need the support, especially in light of what is happening with the pandemic and decreased enrollment now because of the pandemic, families are relocating,” SCVUHSD Superintendent Orlenda Roberts said. “I believe that a strong educational system supports businesses, supports the community and supports growth and stability with the city of Eloy.”
Councilman Dan Snyder asked City Attorney Steve Cooper if it was legal or ethical for the council to approve or encourage voting on tax levies.
“Where do you draw the line?” Snyder asked. “Could we do the same thing, say, for Proposition 208? Where can we get in trouble for doing something like this versus where we cannot? I want to support the schools. Santa Cruz needs it badly, but we also have one for Toltec and then what if Casa Grande comes and Union asks the same thing.”
Cooper told Snyder and the rest of the council that there is a statute that prohibits cities and towns from being involved in financial support to influence an election.
However, the resolutions concerning the two districts are allowed as long as the city is not spending taxpayer funds to take a side that is for or against. Council members are allowed to individually support and donate money.
Cooper reiterated Krauss’ information about the importance of having good quality schools in order to attract economic development.
“The issue is basically for the council to decide whether or not that this issue is something that needs the interest of your duties a council officer,” Cooper said. “If the high school district or the elementary school district had said I’d like you to donate $500 to support the election, we clearly cannot do that because the statute does not allow it.”
Regarding the Toltec School District bonds, Snyder, who lives in Robson Ranch, said that the tax increase for him would be nearly $200 per year.
Superintendent Denise Rogers said it would be around $8 monthly for the average homeowner in the district.
“If I look at the commercial side, they take a pretty good hit too,” Snyder said. “The truck stops and the commercial businesses, along with the pandemic, we’re asking quite a big increase in taxes for them. I think we need it, but I think there’s going to be some pushback on this because of the amount.”
The bonds would go toward capital improvements such as adding preschool programs, improving wheelchair accessibility and student transportation vehicles.