Voters were opposing a 15 percent budget override for maintenance and operations put on the ballot by Chandler Unified School District’s governing board with about 54 percent of votes against it and 46 percent of votes for it, according to early, unofficial general election results.
“It did catch us by surprise a little bit,” said district spokesman Terry Locke. “We really had such good feedback.”
The district asked for the override a year early with the goal of planning its future budget more thoroughly, Locke said. However, the current override does not expire until 2014 and there will not be any cuts made to the budget for now.
If a new override is not in place by 2014, Chandler Unified School District will have to start weaning itself off of its current operational budget, but it is possible that Arizona legislators will approve additional funding, Locke said.
Most maintenance and operations budget overrides across the East Valley were failing for school districts, according to unofficial results.
“There’s definitley a trend across the county that overrides failed this year,” Locke said.
However, bond measures in Tempe Union High School District and Mesa Unified School District appeared to be passing, according unofficial results. While maintenance and operations overrides provide funds to school districts to pay for items like salaries and benefits, bonds provide funds for school construction and maintenance, as well as technology.
Having both Proposition 2O4, a proposal to make a one cent sales tax increase to education funding permanent, and the override on the ballot at the same time may have confused voters, Locke said. Prop 204 was also failing, according to early, unofficial general election results.
“There was a lot of confusion among our voters in regards to Prop 204 and what it means for the overrides,” Locke said. “[It} is not typical to be able to vote on two different ballot measures that affect the bottom line,” he said.
The override would have added about $27 million, an increase of about $9 million per year, to the school district’s budget already allotted by the state. The district currently receives about $18 million more from a 10 percent budget override approved in 2008.
Chandler voters have always approved budget overrides, and a 10 percent override has been in place since 1989, Locke said.
This will be the first year since Arizona implemented budget overrides that the Chandler Unified School District’s override was not passed.
This is also the first year the district took advantage of Arizona’s increase to 15 percent in override limits, enacted by lawmakers in 2010 to make up for state cuts to education.
A budget committee will decide next year whether or not to put the measure on the November 2013 ballot.
Budget overrides are fully funded for the first five years after they are passed, but begin to reduce by a third during subsequent years. Chandler Unified School District has only been using its most recent budget override for four years. However, the district wanted to take advantage of the larger turnout during presidential elections.
In addition to the budget override, three district board members - Barb Mozdzen, David Evans and Karen Bredeson - ran unopposed. Mozden will serve her second four-year term, Evans will serve his third four-year term and Bredeson will serve his first since being elected for two years as a replacement. The election for board members did not appear on ballots as none of them faced competition.
• Michelle is a senior studying print and multimedia journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Contact her at (480) 898-6514 or firstname.lastname@example.org