Gilbert Public Schools vote on Apple

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

GILBERT, Ariz. -- Big news from the East Valley, where it appears The Gilbert Public Schools Board has the votes to approve a deal that would bring Apple to Mesa.

Each governing entity that derives property taxes from the site must sign off on the deal. Seven of those entities already have and all week, there's been talk the GPS board might kill the deal.

“I think it's a win for the community, the district and the state,” said Board Member Jill Humphreys.“It's a wonderful idea a win win for the community. I don't understand how anyone could decide not to support this.”

Humphreys was ready to vote in favor of the tax incentive that would aid in bringing an Apple manufacturing plant and some 700 jobs to a part of the district technically in Mesa. But three out of the five GPS board members were on the fence Tuesday night and ready to vote against the Apple deal, establishing the property as a foreign trade zone where duties may be waived and tariffs reduced.

The state of Arizona allows such properties to be classified differently resulting in tax reductions of 70 to 80 percent. Board members Julie Smith and Daryl Colvin were opposed to what they call corporate favoritism, but in the last two days, after reaching out to lawmakers and local leaders, they’ve changed their minds.

“Somehow in the process of objecting to the short timeline and the fact we were being asked to vote on something with very little information that we were somehow opposed to Apple; those are separate issues. We desperately want Apple here and need it,” said Colvin.

Board President Staci Burk has also pledged her support of the Apple deal, which officials believe could bring an additional $2.5 million to the district. Now with all five board members seeming in support of this deal, the city of Mesa and the State of Arizona are breathing a sigh of relief.

“This was a national issue we were all thinking everyone is in favor of bringing jobs back to the United States and now the board understands the magnitude of the decision they are making,” said Mesa City Manager Chris Brady. The official vote will be held Monday. Assuming it passes, it's then up to the feds for final approval of the federal trade zone.