The Higley Unified School District governing board called for a K-3 budget override in the November election at Thursday’s board meeting. However, that is now contingent on a House bill that would move any upcoming school override elections to March 2010.
Board members decided to still call for the special maintenance and operations override election for kindergarten through third grade because of a county deadline this week to get an issue on the November ballot.
But if HB2122 passes and becomes law, district officials are expecting language in the bill to allow districts who have already called for a November election to cancel it and move it over to the March election.
James Giel, an attorney with Gust Rosenfeld who advises the district on bond issues and elections, recommended that the district call for the election.
“It’s a tough timing issue,” said Giel, adding he believes the bill will become law. “Lots of districts are in this position.”
HB2122 increases the maximum amount for a maintenance and operations override from 10 percent of a school district’s revenue control limit to 15 percent, and repeals the K-3 override. The bill would expand the K-3 override to include special programs for grades K-12.
The Higley district is asking voters to pass a kindergarten to third-grade budget override election to give Higley an estimated $1.4 million annually for seven years. This amount is 5 percent of Higley’s revenue control limit.
The override is seen as a way to reduce class sizes, particularly in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms. It could also be used to provide instructional assistants and additional instructional materials, and improve instructional support for those grades.
The money would allow the district to hire 32 additional teachers, and lower K-3 class sizes from an average of 25 to 29 students, down to an average of 22 to 25.
Homeowners’ yearly tax rate is estimated to increase by $23 per $100,000 of assessed home value. Business owners’ yearly tax rate would increase by $50.06 per $100,000 of assessed business property value.
However, if HB2122 passes, the taxpayer could take on more of a tax burden because of suggested changes to business’ tax rates.
The override election would cost the district an estimated $60,000 to pay for the polling sites and poll workers, said Fred Stone, the district’s executive director of support services.
If the bill passes, and doesn’t allow for districts to cancel the November elections, districts would have to hold another election in March to approve the override again. The districts would then have to incur the costs of an additional election. However, this scenario is not expected, Stone said.
The district would still seek the 5 percent revenue control limit, and use the money for kindergarten through third grades, if the election were moved to March, Stone said.
However, with the new percentage allowances, interim Superintendent Denise Birdwell expressed concern that it would be more difficult from a marketing perspective to encourage voters to pass the override.
“The percentage will really throw people off,” Birdwell said. “It will be very confusing.”
The board approved calling for an election with a 4-1 vote. Board member Denise Standage voted against calling for the election because although she agrees with the need for a K-3 override, she doesn’t believe this is the right time due the cost to the district and the Legislature’s indecision.
Throughout the past week, the district asked the Higley community to take an online survey to gauge whether there is interest in voters approving such an override.
The district received 369 responses to the survey, with 88 percent saying they would vote in an override election and 79.4 percent saying they would support the K-3 override, Stone said.
Those who weren’t supportive of the override election said it was because of increased taxes and the down economy, Stone said.