Dysart Unified School District override vote next week

The Arizona Republic
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Sherry Anne Rubiano

Voters have one week left to decide how they will vote in Dysart's override election.

The Dysart Unified School District is asking voters to approve a 15 percent maintenance-and-operations budget override.

If approved, it would replace the district's current 10 percent M&O override and 5 percent K-3 override and would continue funding programs supported by those overrides.

Justin Olson, senior research analyst at the Arizona Tax Research Association, said school districts like Dysart will have real challenges going to the ballot this month.

“There is a base that is very anti-tax right now,” Olson said. “They, most likely, will turn out to this election.”

Jim Dean, Dysart's spokesman, said the district understands the difficulties of the current economy and the reductions that people are making to their own budgets.

“We made reductions of $18 million to our budget (over the last two years),” Dean said.

Dean said there has been confusion whether the override would create a new tax.

“It is not a new tax,” Dean said. “We're not asking for anything new.”

The tax rate needed to fund the 15 percent budget override is about $1.22 per $100 of secondary assessed valuation for 2010-11, which amounts to about $122 for a home valued at $100,000.

Dean said that even with overrides in place, the district's tax rate has decreased every year since 2006.

This is the second time this school year Dysart is holding an override election.

In November, about 66 percent of voters rejected renewing Dysart's 10 percent M&O override and 5 percent K-3 override.

“In this case, the voters have already spoken with a very strong voice that they don't want this override,” Olson said.

Dean said the district is hopeful people will understand the override is just a continuation of what is already in existence.

Override money provides funding to maintain current class sizes, offer competitive teacher salaries, offer programs like arts and sports, and support a K-3 reading program.

If the state were to cut funding for all-day kindergarten, override money would ensure the district would be able to offer free, all-day kindergarten to students.