Gilbert voters will be asked to vote on a maintenance and operations budget override renewal on the November ballot after a 4-1 decision by the Gilbert Unified School District governing board.
More than 150 people filled and spilled out of the district governing board room during the long discussion about the issue.
Arizona public schools receive funding from the state based on the number of students enrolled. Public school districts can ask taxpayers to tax themselves to provide additional funds.
The Gilbert Unified School District has had the current 10 percent override in place since 2003. For the district, the override provides more than $17 million annually.
Most of the maintenance and operations budget provides staff salaries and benefits.
After more than an hour of public comments – both in favor and against putting the issue on the ballot – the five-member elected board made their own comments.
Staci Burk, the lone dissenting vote, expressed concern about fiscal responsibility of the district, as well as “excessive expenditures” in areas of consulting, travel and software. She said constituents have talked to her about their concern about a lack of transparency in the district’s budget.
She also raised questions about cuts the administration recommended at the last meeting, should the override not be on the ballot or should it fail. During a meeting last week, district leaders said class sizes would need to be increased and cuts would need to be made in art and music, if the override disappears.
Board member Blake Sacha noted that he has done “extensive research” on the district’s budget, including during his time on the recent community budget committee.
“I’ve been the recipient of an awful lot of information form the district. I can tell you there are opportunities to be more efficient with our spending, and as a board member you will have my pledge to address those issues. But there is not $17 million to be found. Therefore I strongly support referring this to the ballot.”
Though the Legislature now allows governing boards to ask for a 15 percent override, the measure approved Tuesday night puts a 10 percent override question on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The Chandler Unified School District governing board voted early last month to also put a maintenance and operations budget override renewal on the Nov. 6 ballot. The Mesa Unified School District governing board voted Tuesday night to put a $230 million bond question on the ballot to pay for technology and facilities needs.
The Mesa district also has a budget override in place. Renewal of that override could be asked of voters as soon as November 2013.
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