Welcome to Troon: Education Optional 

By Jane Weinkrantz

 

The newly-created Weinkrantz Award for Common Sense will be going to Arizona State Senator Linda Gray in 2007. Senator Gray has demonstrated outstanding common sense this year in her sponsorship of a bill that will prohibit the formation of any school district that does not include schools.

Seems like you shouldn’t need a bill to stop the creation of school-less school districts. In fact, I would think we would all be in agreement that the one defining feature of a school district is that it has…schools. However, the residents of Troon and Rio Verde, AZ have formed the Christopher Verde School District without any schools for the 437 children who reside there. “The whole purpose of this was to avoid taxes on their million dollar homes,” Senator Gray told The New York Times. In fact, a trip to several real estate websites advertising homes in the Troon area yields many homes in the $650,000 to $1,500,000 range and only one or two in the $150,000 to $250,000 range. Google the town of Troon and your first four hits refer to golf and country clubs. Here is a description of Troon from the Scottsdale Phoenix Real Estate web page.

The scenery isn’t the only thing breathtaking at the master planned community of Troon. The homes are equally impressive. Choices range from low maintenance villas to sprawling custom estates. Inspiring mountain crags, the beauty of Pinnacle Peak mountain and park and magical city lights add to the incredible views. Most neighborhoods have their own community areas with pool, spa and clubhouse where neighbors can get together for relaxing and socializing without the worry of upkeep.

 

The centerpiece of Troon is the spectacular 48,000 square foot Troon Golf and Country Club, a past recipient of the Grand Award for “Best Architectural Design in a Commercial/Recreational Facility Over 14 Western States” by the Pacific Coast Builders Conference. Co-ed fitness facilities feature the latest in exercise equipment, pool and tennis courts, with a full program of activities and tournaments.

Troon Arizona Real Estate Property

 

Troon Arizona Real Estate Property

There is a separate men’s library with fireplace and separate men’s grill accented with natural wood mosaics and etched glass.

 

This is not a town stricken with poverty and unable to pay school taxes. However, in response to a 2006 law that stated that “unorganized territories” had to become part of an existing district or create their own  if they had a potential enrollment of over 150 students, homeowners in Troon were able to create the Christopher Verde (non) school district for the purpose of keeping taxes low. They plan on building no schools, hiring no teachers, appointing no administrators, busing no students and in short, educating no one. Nonetheless, Christopher Verde school district does have a school board of three. They may also get a superintendent.

Patrick Flynn, a Troon resident and president of a homeowners group which supported Christopher Verde, told New York Times reporter Jennifer Steinhauer, “I am happy…By forming our own school district, the children will be educated by the schools they choose, and the residents will keep the tax rate the same.”

According to The Arizona Republic, kids who live in Troon and Rio Verde can pay to attend school at neighboring Cave Creek schools or the Paradise Valley Unified School District because of Arizona ’s open enrollment laws which state that students may attend any school within 20 miles of their home, if there is room. Some of the tuition will come from the modest taxes collected by the new district and the total tuition amount will be negotiated by the Christopher Verde Board of Education. The BOE will also “try to have a voice in the administration of the nearby districts.” Good luck with that. However, children from the Christopher Verde district can count on being second class citizens who travel up to 20 miles to go to school; understandably, districts give preference to students whose families reside within the school community and contribute to the school tax base. Parent and Troon resident Cassandra Perkins enrolled her daughter in kindergarten in the Scottsdale schools. An administrator told her, “Let’s face the facts, you are not paying your fair share.”

According to Jessica Coomes and Ofelia Madrid of The Arizona Republic residents of the Christopher Verde district pay about $1.81 for every $100 of assessed value, as they did before the formation of the school district because they do not pay for bonds, spending overrides and other expenses associated with schools. Had the people built and maintained schools for the Christopher Verde district, that figure would probably be closer to $3.31, the amount paid by residents of Cave Creek, a community whose taxes support its schools. Of the 6,000 students attending Cave Creek schools, 250 are from the Troon/Rio Verde area. Cave Creek associate superintendent Kent Frison told Coomes and Madrid , “[The taxpayers] feel it is inequitable.”

Patrick Flynn feels he and his supporters have set a valuable precedent. He says, “I don’t see why what we worked out up here can’t work out in the other unorganized areas.” From my perspective, it is the possible spread of Troon disease that is so alarming. What kind of world is it when people take a NIMBY approach to school districts? Will schools soon be perceived as damaging to real estate values in the same way as low-income housing projects or group homes for psychiatric patients are? What kind of people do not appreciate educating the children of their community as an important goal in a civilized society? Who pays clubhouse and golf course fees but not school taxes? This sort of selfish ignorance cannot bode well for our country. Demographically, recent growth in population and housing in Arizona has been primarily fueled by young families while many of the Troon and Rio Verde supporters of Christopher Verde are affluent retirees who are anxious to preserve their savings. However, those whose children have already been educated at the public’s expense should honor their obligation to the children of the next generation. Anything less is just greed.      

                                

                   

           

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