Scottsdale school override appears headed for passage

The Scottsdale Unified School District budget override that would raise property taxes appeared headed for passage by a narrow margin late Tuesday.

Voters had rejected the override each of the past two years — last year’s margin was 237 votes. Those election results led to less money for the district, resulting in larger class sizes and also reduced art, music and physical-education classes for elementary students — a loss that has galvanized parents, one supporter said.

Voters also were overwhelmingly approving a sale-of-property measure.

And in the race for the school board, Pam Kirby and Kim Hartman appeared headed to victory late Tuesday.

Parents and community members went door-to-door last weekend, and school staff participated in a call campaign on their own time this week.

“We banded together, we had meetings, we shared information,” said parent Margaret Tritch Buonocore. “We had never done that before.”

Schools that feed into Chaparral High School joined forces. Having students participate was a crucial element in the campaign.

“They are the people we’re talking about. It’s not nameless, faceless kids — it’s these kids,” she said.

Paul Ulan, a political consultant hired by the independent Yes to Children group promoting the override, said support came from a much broader base this year than in the past.

He noted that only 16 percent of voters in the election last year were district parents and that voter apathy is among the biggest challenges to passing the measure.

“So, we have to do our jobs and get the word out,” he said.

Yes to Children members visited more businesses and community groups this year, including senior citizens and non-parents.

No organized opposition groups surfaced.


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Mayor Jim Lane and all six candidates for City Council have expressed support for the override.

The district asked voters to combine and renew two existing property taxes. One has been in place since 1989 and the other since 2009.

Property-tax overrides expire after seven years unless voters agree to renew them.

Because voters rejected the override the past two years, the older tax first approved in 1989 has started to phase down, giving the district about $8.6 million less in funding.

The override property tax would generate about $18.8 million a year for the district, of which about $11 million would be new.

The average assessed value of a house in Scottsdale is $360,000. The override would add $85 year in property taxes on that house on top of the $60 a year already being paid to fund them, bringing the annual cost for that homeowner to $145 year to fund the combined and renewed overrides. The amount would differ based on the home’s assessed value.

The district has posted a breakdown of how it would direct the money, with about 90 percent going to the classroom in the form of raises and hiring more teachers to reduce class sizes and to restore art, music and physical education.

Article source: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/scottsdale/2014/11/04/scottsdale-district-override-election-results/18462115/