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Sahuarita eyes pecan farm wells to secure water future, Flowing Wells staff could see 5% raises

The Tucson agenda

Sahuarita eyes pecan farm wells to secure water future, Flowing Wells staff could see 5% raises

A quick look at what's planned for local government meetings

  • The first step to Sahuarita securing its future in water may run through prominent pecan farm.
    Jenn Durfey/FlickrThe first step to Sahuarita securing its future in water may run through prominent pecan farm.

Sahuarita wants to control its hydrated future and is taking some interesting steps to reach that promised land.

The Town Council will get a behind-closed-door briefing from their attorneys about negotiations to gain control Farmers Water Co. That water system as step one in building out Sahuarita's own water utility.

Sahuarita doesn't have a version of Tucson Water or Marana Water. The community is served by the water systems included in individual residential and commercial developments built over time.

The town had been in negotiations to acquire Farmers Water Co., owned by pecan grower Farmers Investment Co., when that business struck a deal with Global Water, a Phoenix-area firm buying up the rights to wells throughout rural Arizona.

Well, who doesn't like to give a "neener-neener" to City Hall (or in this case "Town Hall," lacking the poetic pizazz)? It's just that the he town does have a big old bat to bring to the discussion. It's called "eminent domain." They can just condemn Farmers Water and take it for themselves, after appropriate compensation of course.

I talked to Mayor Tom Murphy about this issue and he made very clear that the council much preferred playing nice, if that's possible.

But "condemnation" is one of the options the council will discuss with its lawyers during executive session. No, the council can't approve anything in executive session. Those sitdowns are meant for lawyers to provide privileged legal advice in secret.

Planning and the urban

The big issue up for discussion during the council's "regular" special meeting (regular because it's public and special because it's being held on a first or third Monday) is a 163-acre rezoning to make way for 1,200 homes just east of Sahuarita High School.

The property is now zoned for one home per 10 acres but zoning often reflects land-use decisions made decades ago. The project conforms with the general plan, which is a more up-to-date vision of how the community wishes to grow.

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors will vote Wednesday on whether to accept a 134-acre parcel of land in the Patagonia Mountains owned by a mining company.

The Australian outfit South32 is willing to trade the land for right of way access to a service road that would be used for future mining operations.

South32 has its eyes on the Patagonia Mountains for a mining operation that would produce silver and zinc. Some in  Santa Cruz County opposed the whole shebang and aren't crazy about taking gifts from a company they are fighting.

And up in Marana, the Town Council will hold a special study session to consider input gathered in the last month meant to be part of the town's strategic plan. CREA Affiliates, a Seattle-based urban planning consultant spent the last month conducting outreach to the community and will present their findings during a special study session.

School boards tend to meet on the second week of the month and they are all getting together next week.

Now, let's go around the horn.

Raises and report cards

The Marana Unified School District Governing Board will get a look at how they performed with the annual state Auditor General's report on classroom funding.

Marana's doing fine. About 70 percent of the district's budget goes into the classroom. It's part of a trend that has seen the district's "instructional" spending increase by one percent during the past five years while administration and facility costs have dipped by less than one percent.

Again, every district gets audited for classroom spending every year. It's less about a persistence of bloat and more the Legislature's tool for justifying why the state should trail 47 other states and D.C., in school funding.

It's like if a neighbor only fed their kid one meal per day and justified by saying "junior is just eating the wrong thing."

The board will hold their own special executive session prior to the regular meeting to discuss with lawyers this ominous-sounding topic: "to determine whether to expel or impose alternative discipline on district students."

All governing bodies in Arizona must release their CAFR —consolidated annual financial report. It's the basics of their budget shipped off to Phoenix because Arizona government doesn't believe in repetitive duplication wasting government's time.

Financial reports are fine. I just find that 90 percent of the bureaucracy people complain about is the result of government trying to prove itself accountable.

The Sunnyside Unified School District will get a look at its annual financial report and the big take away is the district is $18 million in the black. This is a big number for rating agencies, which like to see a number like that. An $18 million surplus on a $134 million budget is a honking number.

The financial report was audited by audited independently by local accounting firm Heinfeld, Meech and Co. So any major problems, like hidden cash deficits and intermingled funds probably — I say probably — would have popped.

There's nothing all that earth-shattering on the agendas but there is some naughtiness I'll get to at the end.

The Tanque Verde Unified School District Governing Board will vote on a 5.3 percent raise for staff, plus as much as $2,500 in pro-rated bonuses.

The district gave two raises in the past year totaling 7.4 percent and bonuses of $1,500.

It's the price schools must pay to find talent these days.

Arizona's teacher shortage has been a function of a glut of classrooms in a state soaking in many charter schools. Coronavirus has made the whole labor market that much more competitive for employers.

A hyper-active legislature passing laws that treat teachers as criminals probably don't help.

War on indoctrination

Want some examples of policing classrooms? 

The Marana Unified School District Governing Board will voting to approve an Advanced Placement Art History book.

"Gardner's Art Through the Ages" has been one of the most popular text books in the country for going on 100 years. Helen Gardner wrote it in 1926 and it's on its 12th edition. 

And yet, the Legislature has parents terrified teachers will indoctrinate their children with wokeness. So state law now requires 60 days of public notice about course materials to make sure community decency standards are being met. Arizona doesn't want its kids "groomed" with the Last Supper and Dali prints.

The book makes a point of explains art as it was presented simultaneously in different parts of the world. Could that be the kind of multiculturalism that celebrates diversity?

The law gives folks who think art should just be black velvet representations of dogs calling and raising with a pair of twos a say in how kids learn about the topic.

Speaking of sin and Satan. The Flowing Wells Unified School District Governing Board will be approving a "Family Life" curriculum. 

That means ... shshshhshs ...  we're discussing s-e-X-marks the spot education,

In accordance with state law, the district twice presented information about the class to the public and included advice from parents, teachers and community members.

See, if we don't teach kids about sex, they won't consider having it. That's how it works. We need to provide parents the right to keep their kids ignorant as God intended.

The class will only be allowed for students who first get parent permission and successfully remove the golden idol from the alter and escape while the temple collapses around them in a hail of poisonous darts.

More curiosities

Schools have been the target of hackers both domestic and foreign. So a cyber-security expert is all but required at school districts these days. Vail Unified is set to go looking for one if they get board approval.

The applicant should have a college degree in information systems but a graduate degree is preferred. I point this out because of the rather low bar they established for "Math Skills": Ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide in all units of measure, using whole numbers, common fractions, and decimals. Ability to compute rate, ratio, and percent and to draw and interpret graphs and charts."

Way to aim high, Vail. Only the best and the brightest.

The Sahuarita Unified School District Governing Board has something of a changing of the guard and a restoration of it slated for the same meeting.

The board will discuss replacing Board President Denise Reis and then re-appointing her. That's all they are saying.

Under the "this sounds cool as hell" category or "I wanna try! I wanna try!"

The Tucson Unified School District Governing Board will be voting on whether to accept a virtual reality automotive repair program.

Learn automotive repair without getting dirty, having rust fall into your eyes or forgetting to empty the oil pan before removing the filter (did that once).

Imagine being able to learn how to fix the car without touching anything hot, greasy or sharp.

And there are 15 of these devices for students to learn on. OK, the total cost is $30,000.

The TUSD board will also be voting on a contract to SEAS Education, to help connect kids with better health care through the schools and get schools reimbursed with money from Medicaid.

Health care for Arizona's kids is problematic and that's putting mildly. According to a 2021 Georgetown University study, nearly half of Arizona's kids are on either KidsCare or the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. 

Kids with health problems and special needs, might learn as well as those who don't face that challenge.

The other vouchers

Finally, I have to end with a dork-out session.

Feel free to stop reading if you don't want to get your public-sector geek on.

Anyone who looks at a school board agenda (people who have already laid their geek out on the bed) will invariably see something like this from Marana Unified School District Governing Board's meeting this week:

8.G. Approval of Vouchers Totaling and Not Exceeding Approximately $2,000,000.00.

Virtually every school board meeting will include a voucher item but it's not the kind of voucher that people tend to think of when they think schools in Arizona. It's got nothing to do with school vouchers meant to give parents the ability to send their kids to private schools with public money.

School districts just use things called "vouchers" to get their bills paid. The boards sign off on "vouchers" to be submitted to the Pima County Superintendent of Public Instruction's office. There the superintended writes the check off the district's account in the county treasury.

I had no idea how it worked. Now I do. So do you. It's just a straight-up appropriation.

The Tucson agenda

Public meetings this week:

Sahuarita Town Council

Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors

Marana Town Council

Tucson Unifed School District Governing Board

Flowing Wells Unified School District Governing Board

Amphitheater Unified School District Governing Board

Tanque Verde Unified School District Governing Board

Sunnyside Unified School District Governing Board

Vail Unified School District Governing Board

Sahuarita Unified School District Governing Board

Marana Unified School District Governing Board

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