The Goldwater Institute’s recent court victory protecting taxpayer rights is already having a ripple effect throughout the state.
Last month, a Superior Court Judge ruled that school districts may not use bond money for projects that voters have not approved. That decision has already influenced at least one school district’s plans for voter-designated funds.
Earlier this year, the Institute filed a lawsuit on behalf of Cave Creek District taxpayers, challenging a law that allowed the district to redirect over $13 million in bond money from new school construction to unapproved projects. The court agreed that the district violated its contract with the voters and that the law “strikes a blow to the election process and violates both the Arizona and Federal Constitution.”
Peoria School District was listening. Until recently, its governing board also was considering spending more than $10 million in bond proceeds on purposes voters did not authorize. But upon hearing of last month’s decision, the district resolved to respect the voters’ wishes.
While this decision pertains specifically to school districts, the principle applies to all government bodies that seek voter approval to issue bonds. Governments must play by the same rules as everyone else and are equally bound by the terms of their agreements. The projects that persuaded voters to back a bond measure must be the ones the government undertakes.
Although the issue was a first for Arizona courts, this ruling joins others across the country in protecting voters’ constitutionally-guaranteed rights. Now in Arizona as well, governments will be held to their agreements, and taxpayers will not be forced to foot the bill for projects they did not approve.
Christina Kohn is an attorney with the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.
Goldwater Institute: Court: School Districts Must Abide By Voters’ Wishes On Bonds
Goldwater Institute: Friedman v. Cave Creek Unified School District
Peoria Times: PUSD must make changes to bond fund reallocation