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Overriding instruction

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Posted: Wednesday, November 11, 2009 12:00 am | Updated: 1:22 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

By a fraction – unofficially, 26 votes, far less than 1 percent of the 19,520 ballots cast – voters in Amphitheater School District have agreed to extend a property tax that generates funds beyond what the state of Arizona provides for operations and maintenance of district schools.

That's a very close result, one that changed from apparent first-day defeat of the override Wednesday, on to a five-vote lead Friday, then ahead to Monday's "official final count" from the Pima County Recorder's Office.

Ever doubt that your vote counts? If the 2000 Bush-Gore result didn't affirm the power of one vote, we have been given a further reminder. Think, also, about this — Amphitheater has 71,029 registered voters, according to the recorder's office. Turnout was 19,888, a respectable 28 percent of voters in an "off-year" election. Still that means more than 50,000 people didn't cast a ballot, thereby empowering the minority to make a $7.5 million annual taxation decision for the majority.

Supporters, to include school district officials, educators and supportive parents and residents, can exhale now. The district will have that additional $7.5 million a year through the completion of the override approved four years ago, and beyond. Much of the M&O override funds go toward teacher and staff compensation. It ought to help Amphitheater offset the inevitable funding cuts coming its way sooner, or later, but eventually, from the state of Arizona.

That was sure close, though. It's very clear folks are in no mood to increase taxes … which is why you'd think the Republicans in the Legislature would allow Gov. Jan Brewer's temporary sales tax increase to be placed on a ballot. But anyway …

That thin edge in Amphi has got to be startling to the backers. They barely held on to an override that was approved by a 2-1 margin in 2005. This override had no formalized opposition, yet the "no" votes nearly halted it. Just imagine what might have happened if even a loose affiliation of voters rallied against the tax. Done. Curtains. Then the district would have been left scratching even more so than it is, and shall be as the Legislature tries to sort out a budget.

Proposition 404, the capital outlay budget override, went down to defeat in last Tuesday's election. It was another tight margin — 9,960-9,604, a 356-vote defeat. What's it mean? Less money for technology, to include computers, software, web access and wiring, as well as classroom supplies.

A capital override was always going to be more difficult to pass than an M&O override, in part because Amphi voters passed a bond issue in November 2007 to invest funds in school facilities. Still, without it, there may not be as many new books and supplies. Computers will be taped together, and used. That's not a bad thing. Financially strapped voters want governments at every level to do as much as they can with as little as they need. It's the reality of America, circa 2009.

In the Catalina Foothills School District, relatively wealthy and much smaller, an override passed by a 2-1 margin. Voters in the Tucson Unified School District soundly defeated two overrides. And, of course, the City of Tucson proposition to mandate greater spending on police and emergency services was trounced by more than 3-1.

So, in greater reflection, the people who wanted more funding for Amphi schools got what they wanted. This time. When it comes back up, though, they'd better be ready for a challenge.

—DPP

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