Amphi seeks budget overrides - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Amphi seeks budget overrides

School district asking voters for permission on Nov. 3

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Posted: Tuesday, October 6, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:34 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

The Amphitheater School District is looking to renew its current maintenance and operations budget override, and pass a new override for its capital budget on the Nov. 3 special election ballot.

The district has proposed propositions 403 and 404 to extend the current maintenance and operations budget override of about $7.5 million each school year, and add a capital budget override of about $2 million each school year.

If either or both propositions pass, taxpayers will not have to pay any more taxes than they are currently paying, district officials say.

If the maintenance and operations budget override passes, taxes would continue at levels passed by voters in 2005. If the capital budget override passes, more money would be allotted to the district up to the point where it would not increase taxes.

Scott Little, Amphitheater School District's chief financial officer, said both propositions were built around not raising taxes. He said if Proposition 404 would raise taxes, the district would defer the proposition.

"The goal of the district is to maintain what we have within the resources that the taxpayers have been providing," Little said.

The district's current total budget, spread across 20 schools, is slightly more than $124 million. That includes all funding, including federal grants.

If proposition 403 passes, Amphitheater Superintendent Dr. Vicki Balentine said the district would be able to continue providing smaller class sizes along with enhanced art, music and physical education instruction at the elementary level. Schools at the middle and high school level would continue to have their increased number of electives offered.

Little said if proposition 403 does not pass, the district would phase out the current budget override by cutting expenses of about $2.7 million a year from the budget over the course of three years, until the current override is eliminated.

The capital budget override would help fund "soft capital" expenses such as textbooks, supplies, desks, and computers.

Early last month, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer restored spending for education, saying the state was able to run without borrowing money through early next year. That veto of legislation allowed Amphitheater School District to not cut $1.8 million out of its maintenance and operations budget, and to keep $360,000 of its soft capital budget.

Some may think because Brewer vetoed the budget cuts from schools, districts such as Amphitheater do not have to worry about budget constraints any more. Little thinks differently.

"Right now, even though we get this budget and this budget represents this increase in funding, we have every expectation to be faced with mid-year budget cuts this year, probably in January," Little said. "I have no reason not to expect a cut mid-year."

Because teachers sign contracts to work for the entire school year, the district will have to look to cut funds.

"We are kind of in a holding pattern," Balentine said. "At this point in this year, we are holding back those capital dollars, in particular, related to computers. And knowing if the same scenario reoccurs, we have to have some place to go."

LEAP AHEAD for Amphi Schools — Leaders, Educators And Parents Advocating for Higher Education in the Amphi District — is a political action committee organized by parents and volunteers, and run by chairwoman Susan Zibrat. The organization supports the override renewals for both the capital and maintenance and operations budgets.

"These are very, very necessary and crucial things," Zibrat said. "It would be devastating if these overrides weren't approved."

According to its website (www.leapahead4amphi.com), the goal is to have parents and community members from each Amphi school share information about the overrides to parents and the school community. In doing so, they hope to have both propositions 403 and 404 passed in November.

Mary Schuh, with the Pima Association of Taxpayers, said her group did not take a political stance on Amphitheater School District because it is focusing its efforts toward Tucson Unified School District and that district's current struggles. But she warned Amphitheater voters to be cautious.

"I don't care if it is Amphi, Sunnyside, TUSD, or who ever it is, they get addicted to this extra money, and then it becomes a habit," Schuh said. "My caution to them is to try to get your finance to the point where you are not so addicted to the money in your culture that you think it is OK to keep coming back to the taxpayers; keep coming back to the till. One more go around is OK, because of the times, but they need to caution themselves."

The Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce announced Monday its support for propositions 403 and 404. The Chamber's Public Policy Committee reviewed and analyzed the propositions before making a recommendation to the chamber's board of directors, a release said.

Capital budget override taxes per house per year

House value: $252,643

Assessed Value: $25,264

Estimated Override Tax Rate Increase: $0.1138

Estimated Tax Amount: $28.75

House Value: $126,322   

Assessed Value: $12,632

Estimated Override Tax Rate Increase: $0.1138

Estimated Tax Amount: $14.38

House Value: $505,286

Assessed Value: $50,529

Estimated Override Tax Rate Increase: $0.1138

Estimated Tax Amount: $57.50

Maintenance and operations budget override taxes per house per year

House Value: $252,643

Assessed Value: $25, 264   

Estimated Override Tax Rate Increase: $0.4289   

Estimated Tax Amount: $108.36

House Value: $126,322

Assessed Value: $12,632   

Estimated Override Tax Rate Increase: $0.4289   

Estimated Tax Amount: $54.18

House Value: $505,286

Assessed Value: $50,529   

Estimated Override Tax Rate Increase: $0.4289   

Estimated Tax Amount: $216.72

Source: Pima County Elections Department

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