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DVUSD seeks override to fund teachers’ salaries and specialized programs

9/30/2015

Elizabeth Medora
Staff

NORTH VALLEY – Like the average school district, the Deer Valley Unified School District is no stranger to working around budget issues. The existing Maintenance & Operations override will expire soon, leaving budget shortfalls if a new override is not passed. This November, the district will be asking voters to approve a maintenance and operations override that would continue to fund salaries and special programs. If the override on the ballot does not pass, budget cuts totaling $16,500,000 will be made over the next three school years.  

Override elections are held for voters to give authorization for districts to exceed the budget amounts allowed by the state. The additional funds provided by the override are approved by voters and funded by taxpayers. The previous override was 10 percent; the one on the ballot is 15 percent. If passed, the override on the 2015 ballot is projected to cost homeowners an additional $5.67 per month.

“Maintenance and Operations (M&O) Overrides are very common place in Arizona as the State of Arizona K-12 funding formula only provides for the very basic educational needs,” noted Jim Migliorino,
Deputy Superintendent of Fiscal and Business Services for the DVUSD. “As some perspective on our district, we are a service-based organization with over 87% of our M&O budget spent on people, in salaries and benefits.”

The election will be held Nov. 3. Voters need to be registered by Oct. 5 in order to vote in the upcoming election. To register to vote or update your voter information, see http://recorder.maricopa.gov/elections/registrationform.aspx.

The override would help fund salaries, retain current staff, and maintain class size. The override would also help fund free full-day kindergarten and provide financial support for students programs like athletics, gifted education, language immersion, and special areas, including band, arts, chorus, and PE.

Christine Henry, Co-chairman of Deer Valley Votes 4 Kids, noted that this override would fund day-to-day expenses, including teachers’ salaries.

“It is different from a capital override that covers building expenses such as furniture,” Henry said. “These two types of overrides are mandated to be separate by law, so M&O funds cannot be used to finance capital expenditures. Additionally, M&O funds cannot cover construction costs for schools, as this is covered by bonds.”

Last school year, the DVUSD and other schools around the state struggled to deal with budget shortfalls after state funding was significantly reduced. The DVUSD had to make up a shortfall of $4.4 million after the state budget was released. Cuts were implemented to make up for the lack of funds, including athletic fees for high school and middle school sports. The fees were approved last May in a 3-2 vote after heated debate, and the issue is likely to once again be at the forefront of budget talks.

The district has not said that the override will reduce or remove the athletic fees, although athletics are on the list of programs to be funded if the override passes. The governing board could potentially determine to do away with the fees. According to override FAQs on the DVUSD Web site, the override “would continue to fund and provide additional resources for” multiple programs, including athletics.

If the override doesn’t pass, some of the budget items will have to be cut. This could include support staff and custodial staff, as these positions were potential items to be cut last year. The failure of the override would almost certainly guarantee that current fees, such as athletic fees, will remain in place and that teachers will receive no salary increases. Teachers and staff representation groups have repeatedly asked for cost-of-living salary increases as a way to attract and retain highly qualified educators. According to the National Education Association, teachers’ salaries in Arizona, adjusted for inflation, fell nine percent between 2004 and 2014. New teachers’ salaries are generally under $35,000. The inability to adequately support themselves on their salary is frequently cited as a reason teachers and support staff leave their school or the education field altogether.

In the M&O override presentation available at DVUSD.org, teacher retention is listed as a priority. The presentation notes that, “Employees have not experienced a meaningful salary increase from M&O funds since 2008-09.” The presentation also noted that DVUSD retained only 85 percent of their teachers for the 2015-16 school year.

“In order for Deer Valley Unified School District to be competitive in attracting and retaining a highly qualified staff, we not only need our M&O Override to be renewed (it has been in place since 1991), we need to ask for an increase in the amount as other districts are already receiving more money per student and we have to contend with continuing State-imposed funding reductions,” Migliorino said. “These override dollars will provide the necessary resources to provide the very best opportunities for all our students.”

See information on the DVUSD override at www.dvusd.org. To register to vote, see http://recorder.maricopa.gov/elections/registrationform.aspx.