In 2007, Marana Unified School District voters passed a 10 percent operations and maintenance override tax by a 57-42 percent margin.
"Voters were very generous and very gracious, and understood the concept of investing in schools in Marana," said Mark DeWeerdt, today a resource teacher and associate principal at Coyote Trail Elementary School.
DeWeerdt helped lead a political action committee that pushed for override passage in 2007. He's back at it in 2010, chairing the MUSD Campaign 2010 political action committee, which is asking voters to approve Proposition 400, a 15 percent override, on March 9.
In 2010, DeWeerdt sees a more urgent need.
"We're asking today, that they reauthorize, with the understanding this time around it's not about creating programs … it's about saving jobs, it's about saving programs, it's about keeping the community and the schools strong, with lower class sizes," DeWeerdt said.
The political action committee was formed "so we can receive funds and create an organized campaign around" the override, DeWeerdt said. Campaign materials have been created, with frequently asked questions and answers, as well as a pamphlet with information. The committee plans a Jan. 30 rally, with literature distribution and other activities ahead of the early February mailing of ballots.
"Our major big push is truly to get early information out to those early ballots, those early voters," DeWeerdt said. "They need to be informed about what this override is, and effectively what it's going to cost, which is minimal to nothing."
If approved, the 15 percent override would replace the 10 percent override, with a net addition of $3.1 million from property taxes to MUSD's general fund budget. The secondary tax would amount to $36 annually per $100,000 of assessed property value. MUSD spokeswoman Tamara Crawley has emphasized that MUSD would use cash from the district's existing debt service fund to offset the tax increase in 2010-'11.
Override money would be used to maintain services, the MUSD Campaign 2010 literature indicates, specifically to maintain "appropriate class sizes, full-day kindergarten" and "programs that support student success."
The Arizona Legislature gave school districts "a first-time opportunity to go for an additional 5 percent" override beginning this March. If it passes, "we can use the money immediately," in the fiscal year that begins July 1, "versus waiting one fiscal year later," DeWeerdt said. "We want to take advantage of that opportunity. With all the devastating cuts that are happening in Arizona, specifically with public education … communities are left to go about this on their own."
Judith Bartley, a national board-certified teacher in Marana, is the political action committee's treasurer. Both Bartley and DeWeerdt were presidents of the teachers' association in Marana at one time.
"Any organization that needs public speakers, we're ready to go out and speak to those organizations, and spell out the facts for them," DeWeerdt said. He can be reached at 349-9897, or through e-mail at email@example.com.