Voters in Gilbert won’t receive a third opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of an override after the Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board voted down adding it to the November ballot in a heated 3-2 vote.
Board president Staci Burk, Clerk Daryl Colvin and board member Julie Smith opted against placing a 10 percent override on the Nov. 4 election ballot during the board’s June 10 meeting. It would have been the third time in the last three years the board asked for an override; voters rejected the district’s efforts in 2012 and 2013.
“It’s clear that the voters are not in support of this,” Burk said.
The measure would have allowed the district to overspend its maintenance and operations by 10 percent starting in the 2015-16 fiscal year. Gilbert first approved an override in 2007, but the inability to renew it in 2012 and 2013 will result in the district losing it in 2016.
The inability to approve another override was one of the reasons Burk cited for her decision to not go for it in 2014, along with a potential influx in funding in the neighborhood of $8 million for the 2015-16 school year. Board member Lily Tram, who approved the measure alongside Jill Humpherys, said there’s no guarantee the district will receive that much funding from the state and other sources next year.
Rather, she said the district could guarantee a source of funding she said Gilbert needs if it could get an override approved by voters.
“I can’t see how we can find another $7 million to cut in the budget. We’ve all seen it, the budgets are presented to us,” she said. “It just means further increasing class sizes, cuts of programs, closing of schools, reboundaring things. There’s really no other way and it’s going to be a devastating impact if this override isn’t provided to the community to vote.”
Tram’s reference was the 2014-15 fiscal year budget the board approved shortly before the override vote, which saw the district cut approximately $6 million from the maintenance and operations budget, some of which was a result of the override loss. The district bridged that gap in part by eliminating 80 teaching positions that will lead to an increase in class sizes among every level.
Smith, however, said the district might have found more areas to cut from the 2014-15 fiscal year budget, which the board also passed during the meeting, had the newly implemented zero-based budgeting system started sooner. Although it was implemented during the budgeting process, Smith said the 2013 override attempt delayed the start of it and impeded on the district’s budgeting efforts.
The reason she mentioned for voting against was a lack of trust between the district and the community caused by a collection of contrasting information. Smith said she didn’t want to go for another override before incoming Superintendent Christina Kishimoto can regain the community’s trust.
Smith’s vote, along with those of Burk and Colvin, went against Kishimoto’s recommendation to go for the override. In a letter addressed to the board, Kishimoto said the district should pursue an aggressive campaign to provide funding for a “student-centered district.” Also supporting the measure were Mayor John Lewis, Gilbert Councilmember Ben Cooper and Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board candidates Reed Carr and Charles Santa Cruz.
The end result of the vote drew a spattering of boos, with audience members shouting “shame on you” and “resign” to the members opposing the measure. The audience consisted largely of parents and community members in support of the override, one of whom presented the board a document with 1,071 signatures in favor of it.
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