Group, board hopefuls push Higley override vote - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Group, board hopefuls push Higley override vote

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Posted: Thursday, October 30, 2008 6:32 pm | Updated: 11:46 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Higley parent Carolyn Starr is so passionate about the school district's $4.85 million maintenance and operations budget override renewal, she dropped out of the school board race and put her energies into persuading voters to approve the override.

Starr is chairwoman of the Yes for Higley Kids political action committee and has been busy explaining to voters what the override means to the Higley Unified School District.

"As a parent, I have frustrations with our district, but I would never take that out on our kids and teachers," Starr said. "We know times are tough. But the reality is, my kids' education is so important, and this state does not put a priority on it."

The maintenance and operations fund pays for the majority of instructional costs, all student transportation costs, general upkeep of district facilities, and district administration and support, said Mark Busch, the district's executive director of budget and finance.

The extra money the district receives from the override allows Higley to maintain programs, class sizes and supplies, and competitive teacher and staff salaries, Busch said.

The override, which has been in place since 1994, needs voter approval this year so the district can continue receiving the money.

If the override is not renewed, the district would have to start cutting the $4.85 million over the next three years from its budget.

This is not a new tax, but rather a renewal of the current tax, which will be 12 cents higher than the 2008 rate.

A Higley homeowner would pay $68 for every $100,000 of a house's cash value as determined by the county assessor.

Justin Olsen, a research analyst with the Arizona Tax Research Association, said his job is to make sure voters are aware of the tax consequences, not to take a position on the override itself.

"Despite the temporary nature of overrides, once taxpayers are on the hook they usually remain there for quite some time," Olsen said.

"After passing an override, school districts come to rely on this revenue and are certain to be back at the ballot asking voters for a renewal before the override expires."

Last year, 80 percent of the maintenance and operations overrides in Maricopa County failed at the ballot, Olsen said.

"Voters are generally more reluctant to reject a revenue stream that a district has come to rely on, although the current economic uncertainty could lead to results similar to last November," Olsen said.

The five candidates vying for the three open seats on the Higley governing board are all in favor of the override renewal. The candidates are Taunya Lofgreen, Greg Land, Denise Standage, Paul Howell and Jeoff Johnston.

Lofgreen said she's spent more time urging voters to pass the override than she has on her own campaign.

"Our schools desperately need the funding," Lofgreen said. "We can't operate the school district without it. We'll lose teachers, recruiting ability. Classroom sizes will have to get bigger."

Land said approving the override is "like a return on your investment."

"You're investing in your school," Land said. "I hope the recent downturn in the economy doesn't sway voters (to turn the override down). It's a good decision. It invests in our kids."

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