Voters approve override for Mesa schools - East Valley Tribune: News

Voters approve override for Mesa schools

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Posted: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 8:51 pm | Updated: 3:03 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Voters approved a budget override Tuesday, allowing the Mesa Unified School District to keep $35 million annually in its coffers.

Higley voters defeat school district override

Voters approved a budget override Tuesday, allowing the Mesa Unified School District to keep $35 million annually in its coffers.

With 48 of 48 precincts reporting, 58 percent of voters cast a "yes" ballot for the district's override. More than 41,000 votes were cast. There are 222,590 eligible registered voters in the district, which also includes parts of Chandler. As of late last week, 80,944 early ballots were requested or on the permanent early ballot list.

"We are so appreciative of the Mesa community and their vote of support for Mesa public schools," Superintendent Mike Cowan said Tuesday night. "I truly wish I could go out and say to all our voting constituency a huge thank-you on behalf of Mesa kids."

Since 1995, the Mesa district has had an override in place. Arizona school district budgets are limited by state formula. But school districts can ask voters to approve an override, where taxpayers agree to tax themselves to give additional funds to the district.

An override is in place for seven years, with voters asked in the fifth year whether or not they want to continue it.

The average Mesa homeowner currently pays about $155 a year for the override, which funds:

  • 8.8 percent of teachers' salaries.
  • 35 percent of classroom supply budgets.
  • 16 security guards.
  • Eight educational technology trainers.
  • 136 teachers to reduce class sizes.

"It means so much for the community. With all the struggles we're having, this is at least a positive," school board president Mike Hughes said.

Hughes also thanked Jill Benza, a former district assistant superintendent who led the committee supporting the override.

"The committee, Jill Benza, need to be congratulated," he said.

The district may still have to make cuts in a few months.

School leaders around the state - including Mesa Unified - are expecting lawmakers to trim their budgets midyear, just as they did a few months ago.

"The support of the override is critical, especially in light of the state-level budget crisis," Cowan said. "We anticipate as the Legislature goes back into session that education, not just Mesa, will be required to give funds back to the state to help them compensate for the ever-increasing budget deficit."

Lawmakers are expected to go back in special session this month to address this year's budget, which remains out of balance with state revenues.

Voters in the Apache Junction Unified School District were also asked to approve an override. With all seven precincts reporting late Tuesday night, voters narrowly defeated the override by 51.7 percent, according to unofficial returns.

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