Prescott business, civic leaders support school bond, override
PRESCOTT - Voters and public officials rubbed shoulders Thursday evening, Oct. 1, at Prescott Mile High Middle School in an open house presented by Prescott SOS, the political action committee behind efforts to pass a bond and override for Prescott Unified School District.
The night was a chance for community members to speak with civic and business leaders who support the proposed 14-year, $15 million bond and seven-year, estimated $6 million budget override.
Voters already received the official voter guide in the mail, but some who came Thursday night said they wanted more information.
"I knew I was a supporter, but I had some questions," said Richard Norman, who wanted to make sure school officials were committed to buying new buses on a staggered schedule and that the override was going to pay for teacher salaries.
He said school officials told him "yes" on both questions.
"I understood it was not going to increase my taxes," Norman said.
That's been one of the main talking points for school officials and bond supporters, who echoed a message that the average homeowner in Prescott will continue to pay about $34 to PUSD on their tax bill.
The combined rate for both the bond and override would make up a tax of 28 cents per $100 of assessed value for residential property tax. School officials and bond supporters were quick to point out that's the same amount taxpayers are paying on their current tax bill for a 2004 bond that expires this year.
"I think people are afraid it'll increase their taxes," retired teacher Patty Rummage said. "They told us it won't."
Cathy Cowen said like Norman, she reviewed the voter guide before arriving at the open house.
"I had the information, and I looked at the endorsements," she said.
She said as a regular supporter of education funding measures, she supports the bond and override. "This is our future," Cowen said.
Her sentiment was repeated by several of the presenters from the business and civic community who also attended.
Kendall Jaspers, executive director of Prescott Downtown Partnership, said many in the business community support education because it helps build a stronger workforce.
"It's an enormous driver," he said. "When we get young professionals coming to town, one of the first things they ask about is the schools."
Prescott Chamber of Commerce CEO Dave Maurer said the chamber supports the bond and override for similar reasons.
"It's all about the kids," he said. "They're our future business leaders."
But as Prescott Area Young Professionals President Kelly Soldwedel Thornhill explained, voter turnout among voters age 18-49 was less than 22 percent in the school district's 2013 bond and override election.
"They're the ones who are impacted," she said, adding that PAYP seeks not only to educate young professionals on the issues of the bond and override, but to register them to vote.
Brad Bergamini, president-elect of Prescott Area Association of Realtors, said the real estate industry benefits from school performance.
"Strong schools equal strong home sales," he said, referring to information published by the real estate website trulia.com that showed 19 percent of American adults want to live in great school districts, with that figure jumping to 35 percent among parents of children younger than 18.
Joining business leaders, several elected officials said they endorse the bond and override, including Prescott City Councilmen Steve Blair, Jim Lazzell and Jim Lamerson and Councilwoman Jean Wilcox, Councilwoman-elect Billie Orr, Councilman-elect Steve Sischka, Mayor-elect Harry Oberg, and state Reps. Noel Campbell and Karen Fann.
According to the Yavapai County elections and voter registration department, the deadline for voter registration to be eligible to vote in the Nov. 3 general election is Oct. 5. Citizens in Yavapai County can register to vote or update their voter information through the county website at www.yavapai.us/electionsvr/. For questions about voter registration, call 928-771-3248.
Early voting begins Oct. 7 and ballots will be mailed to registered voters the week of Oct. 12.
Follow reporter Les Bowen on Twitter @NewsyLesBowen. Reach him at 928-445-3333, ext. 1110, or 928-830-9305.