School District Agrees Not to Spend Leftover Bond Money Until Judge Decides Legality

Posted on May 16, 2011 | Type: Press Release
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PHOENIX—The Goldwater Institute is pleased to announce that the Cave Creek Unified School District has agreed to stop spending bond money on projects voters did not approve until a judge can decide if spending the money is legal. Both the Goldwater Institute and CCUSD signed an agreement that will expedite a ruling in this legal challenge.

“Like us, the School District wants to get the matter resolved as quickly as possible, and signing this agreement helps speed up the process,” said Christina Kohn, the Goldwater Institute’s lead attorney on the case.

CCUSD voters approved a $41 million bond program to build new schools in November 2000. After building two elementary schools, the district had $13 million left over, which it decided to use on other projects that were not approved by voters. In May 2010, with Cave Creek in mind, the Arizona Legislature approved a special law that allows certain school districts to take money away from voter-approved projects and spend it on projects preferred by district officials.

The Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation is challenging the school district’s action on two grounds. One is that under the U.S. and Arizona Constitutions, a government cannot interfere with a legitimate contract. A bond election establishes a contract between the government seeking money and the taxpayers approving the expense. The second challenge is based on the special laws provision in the Arizona Constitution which bars the government from passing laws that don’t apply equally to all citizens. The law passed by the legislature applies to a limited number of school districts only, making it unconstitutional.

Courts in five other states—California, Nebraska, Texas, Florida, and West Virginia—have established the requirement of protecting and enforcing contract guarantees between a government and voters in a bond election. The Goldwater Institute believes CCUSD’s plan to spend the remaining bond money on projects not approved by citizens violates the contract they have with voters.

“Imagine you hired a contractor to add a room to your home. Instead the builder decided to spend your money on a fence, swimming pool, and gazebo. If that happened, you’d sue the builder for violating your contract, and you would win. Public officials should be held to the same standard,” said Ms. Kohn.

Read more about this and other Goldwater Institute lawsuits to protect individual rights and uphold the Constitution at www.goldwaterinstitute.org/litigation. The Goldwater Institute is an independent government watchdog whose work is made possible by the generosity of its supporters.

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