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Steep cuts increase number of districts calling for bonds, overrides by 150% (+ Infographic)

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  • Lisa Irish/Arizona Education News Service

Students At Sunrise Elementary School Listen During Class.

The number of school districts asking local taxpayers for assistance funding district public schools through approval of bonds and overrides this year is up 150 percent since 2008, from 20 to 50 of Arizona’s 238 school districts.

The impact of steep cuts in state funding from 2008 to 2012 were cited by many of the school boards that called for the measures, which will appear on the November ballot for voters in 21 percent of Arizona’s school districts.

The Arizona Legislature cut per-student funding by 17.8 percent from 2008 to 2012, according to a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report released in October 2014.

Infographics by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

What are bonds and overrides?

Bonds and overrides are community support for district public schools generated by local property taxes and approved by voters in those districts. They are for a specific period of time and purpose.

Districts request bonds for a set amount for specific projects, while overrides can increase district funding by up to 15 percent of its maintenance and operations budget.

How are bonds and overrides used?

Bonds are used for schools’ physical needs, such as school construction and renovation, preventative maintenance, improvements and school security. Many districts now use bond money for buildings repair. The state now only provides for a grant program for catastrophic repairs.

Maintenance and operations overrides are used to directly impact the classroom, typically by reducing class sizes, funding tutoring and intervention, basic instructional programs, providing all-day kindergarten, which is no longer fully funded by the state, more teacher training and instructional materials. Some districts are also using these funds to provide teachers with long put off raises in a bid to recruit new teacher and retain current instructors. They often are continuations of existing overrides.

Capital outlay overrides often are used for technology, upgrading network infrastructure and buses.

How does local funding figure in?

Steep cuts increase number of districts calling for bonds, overrides by 150% (+ Infographic) BondOverrideSidebar4In Arizona, bonds and overrides are a crucial funding source for schools and make up a portion of the local monies that fund Arizona public schools. The state provides the second largest amount of funding. Federal money makes up a much smaller proportion of funding for Arizona public schools, according to the U.S. Census Bureau Public Education Finances 2013. Local money accounts for the largest share.

Nationally, the chief funding sources are reversed, with most states picking up the majority of funding for public education, local sources providing the next highest amount, and federal money coming in at 9 percent, according to the same report.

Who’s calling for what?

This year, 21 percent of Arizona’s 238 public school districts have bond or override measures on the ballot.

Eighteen Arizona school districts, or 7.5 percent, have called for bond elections in November.

Yuma Union High School District in Yuma County is seeking a new bond to refurbish and update high schools in Yuma, build a new high school in Somerton and update technology, school safety and remodel buildings.

In Yavapai County, Prescott Unified School District is seeking a new $15 million 14-year general obligation bond that would help the district fund building construction and renovation, school buses, land purchase and leases, school improvements and furniture, equipment and technology.

Twenty five school districts, or 10.5 percent, plan override elections.

Parker Unified School District in La Paz County is seeking a continuation of its $969,000 maintenance and operations override this year. The district receives Impact Aid from the federal government because much of the Colorado River Indian Reservation is within the school district. As a result, Parker Unified has no primary property tax and residents in the district have the lowest school property taxes in the county.

In Maricopa County, Peoria Unified School District is asking voters to increase the current override from 10 to 13 percent in an effort to preserve valued programming, help recruit and retain quality teachers and re-establish free all-day K for all parents who want it for their kids.

Seven districts, or 2.9 percent, are seeking capital/district override elections.

In Pima County, Catalina Foothills Unified  School District is seeking a continuation of its $2 million 7-year capital/district additional assistance override to maintain, purchase and upgrade technologies and supporting infrastructure, including purchasing Google ChromeBooks and online textbooks so students will have access to a device and corresponding software and resources for their daily learning.

Nadaburg Elementary District in Maricopa County is seeking a new capital/district additional assistance override for buses, technology, transportation and building renovations.

Five districts are calling for a combination of a bond/override or capital/district additional assistance election.