Gilbert district schools will continue to offer free, full-day kindergarten next school year following a vote Wednesday night by the governing board.
With the 4-1 vote, the Gilbert Unified School District governing board gave direction to school district Superintendent Dave Allison to keep funding tuition-free kindergarten in the budget. Board member Daryl Colvin was the dissenting vote.
The board also postponed a vote to place a budget override on the November 2013 ballot, despite the fact that the override was one of the reasons the special board meeting was called.
Board president Staci Burk told the audience that she had concerns that not enough notice was given to the community about the matter. The agenda for Wednesday’s 7 p.m. meeting went online Tuesday night about 5 p.m.
School district budgets in Arizona are set by the number of students they have and then the per student funded determined by lawmakers. School boards can place an override on the ballot where voters can agree to tax themselves to provide additional dollars.
Currently, school boards can put up to a 15 percent override on the ballot.
Gilbert has a 10 percent 7-year override in place, which provides an additional $18 million to the district annually. Voters were asked to renew it last fall, but turned it down.
With the failure to renew the override, the district needs to cut $6 million from its budget next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Before asking the board to table the matter she put on the agenda, Burk explained her actions. She said last year she did not support putting the budget override renewal on the November ballot because it had barely passed during the previous renewal and the state was still coming out of the recession.
“I do believe the override would not have passed regardless of any opposition,” she said, referring to the public push and campaign signs that did appear in the fall by those who did not want the override approved. In fact, school budget overrides failed in other East Valley districts, including Chandler and Higley.
“I believe, considering going out for an 8 percent is a possibility, however, at this time, I’m still waiting for some information. Legally, I think we were a little rushed in preparing the legal documents. I want to make sure things are done right and correctly and making such a big decision on a rushed meeting is not necessarily the way to go,” Burk said. “I think this should be an issue for people to come back and make comment. … so I apologize for placing that on the agenda. I motion we table that for a future meeting.”
Her motion was approved 3-2 with Julie Smith and Colvin agreeing with Burk and Lily Tram and Jill Humpherys voting against the matter.
The board also voted to narrow the number of budget options it is looking at for next school year as it explores the $6 million cuts needed.
The district had been giving the board three options – named “A, B and C” – for a few weeks.
Option “A” gives an already-approved salary schedule increase to teachers. Option “B” gives a salary increase to all staff. And option “C” used the amount of money the district would have available if the board voted not to increase the primary property tax rate.
With a 4-1 vote, the board votes to stop considering option “C” for next year, but to use the proposed cuts in that option as a starting point for to look at the 2014-15 school year budget.
The vote drew cheers from the packed board room.
The district currently would need to cut another $6 million for the 2014-15 school year because of the failed override renewal, and option “c” is about $5.5 million less than the other budgets.
Colvin, a supporter of maintaining the current primary property tax rate, voted against the plan to eliminate option “c” for next school year. Board member Smith said after the vote that she felt she had no other option but to approve the program because she did not have all the information she had been requesting regarding the budget.
In the final matter Wednesday, the board approved the district's pay for performance plan, 5-0.
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