Voters within the Queen Creek and Higley unified school district boundaries will decide Nov. 5 if they can continue maintenance and operations 15% budget overrides. HUSD is also asking to modify a list of previously approved capital projects.
They will be mailed-ballot only elections. Monday, Oct. 7 is the last day to register to vote in the elections.
Ballots are to be mailed to all registered voters on Oct. 9. The last day to request a ballot is Oct. 25 and the last day to mail an early ballot is Oct. 30. For voting information, call the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office at 602-506-1511. Register to vote or update voter registration at recorder.maricopa.gov/elections/registrationform.aspx.
QCUSD has one question on the ballot, asking to continue a maintenance and operations 15% budget override.
The estimated average annual tax rate is $1.39 per $100 of net assessed valuation used for secondary property tax purposes. For a home valued at $131,000, homeowners will pay approximately $15 per month if the override is continued. For a home valued at $500,000, homeowners would pay approximately $57 per month.
An override allows local school district voters to approve additional funding for operating costs and the district has been operating under a locally supported 15% M&O override for three years, according to a QCUSD fact sheet.
“In order to continue an override at 15%, state statute requires local voter approval every five years. Without local voter authorization after five years, the rate of the override drops in years six and seven. After year seven, without voter approval, the override no longer exists,” according to the fact sheet.
The local override revenue goes toward competitive teacher and staff salaries (64%); reduced class size (21%); gifted, AVID, JROTC, athletics and other academic programming (15%).
Override spending in fiscal year 2018-19 was $3,992,430 for salary increases, $1,325,217 for reduced class sizes and $943,393 for the academic programming.
“If this override fails the district will be in the position over the next three years where the budget will need to be reduced and a variety of budgetary commitments will need to be analyzed,” Dr. Matt Strom, QCUSD associate superintendent of business and operations, said.
“The override currently generates about $6 million and the majority of this funding, 85%, goes to salaries and benefits of our teaching staff. This continuation will continue our efforts to ensure our teaching salaries are competitive with other East Valley school systems,” he said.
“With the teacher shortage in Arizona, it is critical that we are competitive in this area so that our schools in Queen Creek and southeast Mesa have the best possible teachers to engage them in learning,” Dr. Strom said.
Override fact sheets are being distributed through many channels, including on the district’s website at qcusd.org/Election.
“Also, as we typically do on a yearly basis, we are encouraging our non-registered voter to register to vote by Oct. 7, 2019,” Dr. Strom said.
“From social media to presentations we are communicating that this is a continuation of an already approved override. Every district in Arizona that is on an approved override has to, by law, seek the voters’ approval to continue that override on a set timeline. 100% of these funds go to classroom salaries, maintaining lower class ratios than what we had prior to the passing of the 2015 override and academic programming like JROTC,” he said.
QCUSD education association officials didn’t respond to a request to comment. Its Facebook page is @QueenCreekEA.
HUSD has two questions on the ballot, asking voters to modify the purpose or list of capital projects authorized by previous voter-approved bond authorization and authorizing the district to continue a maintenance and operations 15% budget override.
The tax rate needed to fund the full override the first year was estimated to be $1.53 per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home with a limited property value of $180,753 would pay about $23 a month to fund the override, according to a 2015 fact sheet at husd.org.
“Neither ballot measure will result in a new tax. Question 1 --- the override continuation --- is already in existence. Question 2 --- the bond repurpose --- was approved by voters in 2013,” Michelle Reese, HUSD public relations coordinator, said.
“Should the vote for the override renewal not pass, there will not be a fiscal impact for the 2020-21 school year. There would be a reduction, however, in 2021-22. Should the bond project modification not be approved, the district will need to examine the areas approved by voters in 2013 to determine how best to use funds in the approved areas,” she said.
On the bonds question, a “yes” vote would allow the district to apply funds already approved by voters to the most important capital needs of the district. Because the bonds have previously been approved by the voters and the Governing Board, there is no tax impact associated with the bond repurpose, according to husd.org.
“Specifically, approval of the repurpose will apply funds no longer needed for land acquisition and a transportation support facility to ongoing pupil transportation and technology needs. Additionally, the repurpose enables the district to better fund school --- and administrative --- renovations and improvements to properly maintain a quality learning environment for Higley students,” the website states.
The override is used to increase teacher compensation; maintain and improve elementary specials such as arts, athletics, music and physical education; provide staffing to maintain average class sizes; support gifted, special education and all-day kindergarten; and provide education resources to classrooms, according to the district website.
In 2012 and 2013, the HUSD Governing Board called for a 10% maintenance and operations override renewal. Previous overrides were approved in 2003 and 2008. Voters did not approve renewal in 2012 or 2013, resulting in cuts to the district budget in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years, according to the district website.
In 2015, the Governing Board called for a 15% maintenance and operations override, which was then approved by voters.
Since then, funding has been used to: Increase the number of teaching staff; maintain all-day kindergarten; provide a 3.5% salary increase for all staff (2016-17); continue funding salary increase to staff; implement longevity stipends; provide resources for classrooms; increase some salary schedules following market analysis; sustained art, music, band and PE at the elementary level; reinstate additional money for subs; reinstate lunch aides; reinstate bus route; and purchase new K-12 English Language Arts curriculum (2017) and new K-12 Math curriculum (2018), according to the website.
The district created an information page that can be found at husd.org/info with fact sheets on the election --- which are also available at the school sites --- and important election dates, along with copies of the resolutions, Ms. Reese said.
HUSD Superintendent Dr. Mike Thomason is meeting with school Parent Teacher Organizations to provide information and facts on the election, she said.
HUSD education association officials didn’t respond to a request to comment. Its website is sites.google.com/a/higleyea.org/higley-education-association.