The Higley Unified School District governing board has approved a plan to put two budget override issues again before voters.
With a unanimous vote, Higley’s board put a maintenance and operations override and a capital outlay override on the November 2013 ballot.
Last month, Higley voters turned down the two measures, one just narrowly.
Districts in Arizona operate on a funding formula based on enrollment. Schools can ask property owners to tax themselves to provide additional funds. An override is in place for seven years, unless voters renew it.
Voters around the East Valley turned down district requests for overrides. Higley is the first to make a formal decision to put the measure back on the ballot.
“I want the voters to decide,” governing board member Venessa Whitener said in a release. “Do I think the political information that voters were given on Prop. 204 clouded the decision on the overrides? Yes, I do. I saw that firsthand. People had thought that those overrides and the sales tax were all related.”
Higley’s current maintenance and operations budget override gives the district about $4.9 million a year. Those funds are used to maintain class sizes, and for teacher salaries and benefits, according to the district.
The district’s current capital outlay override gives it $1.85 million annually. Funds can be used to make building repairs and purchase school furnishings such as desks. Voters in 2013 will be asked to approve an override that would provide $4.9 million annually.
Whitener said she maintains strong support for the overrides, and said the district is fiscally conservative.
“I feel it’s necessary to continue current funding. I'm glad we have another opportunity to address the overrides and have more time to do a better job addressing questions about them,” Whitener said. “We’re going to ensure we do a better job of communicating accurate information about how we use these dollars conservatively and judiciously. The intent is to always keep it that way. “
In a release, Justin Greene, Higley’s executive director of system services, said an analysis of election results prompted Higley leaders to seek a new vote on the overrides for next year’s election.
“A majority of the feedback that both board members and the staff members received indicated there was great momentum for moving forward at this time,” Greene said. “We received specific feedback that indicated a need for increased clarity on the uses for the override funds.”
Last month, Higley voters were also asked to allow the district to enter into a long-term lease agreement. That measure passed, so the district moved forward with plans to lease two new middle schools. Under a contract signed by the board, outside groups will build and furnish the schools and the district will lease them.
The schools are expected to open in time for next school year.
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