On March 9, 2010, voters in the Marana Unified School District decide whether to approve a 15 percent budget override for district maintenance and operations, a decision that could add $3.1 million annually to the district's budget.

The Arizona Legislature has given school districts the ability to ask voters for 15 percent overrides as soon as March. In early December, the school board voted to put the measure on the March ballot.

A favorable vote "allows the district to reauthorize our 10 percent 2007 override, and add an additional 5 percent," according to Tamara Crawley, public information officer for the school district. That May 2007, 10 percent override was the first one approved by MUSD voters.

MUSD has a maintenance and operations budget — including the 10 percent, $6.2 million override — of $74.513 million for the current fiscal year.

A higher override would "lessen the impact of budget cuts, and assist the district in keeping budget cuts away from the classroom, specifically in the ability to continue to provide appropriate class sizes, full-day kindergarten, and programs that support student success" such as fine arts, drama, athletics and music, Crawley said.

At the request of the school board and administration, a feasibility committee representing "various stakeholders, including parents, staff, businesses, community members," teachers and support staff studied the district's budget this fall.

The group examined current cost-saving measures, totaling $3.55 million in the current school year. MUSD used the combination of staff reductions, reduced building level support staff and specialists, furlough days for support staff and administrators, a fixed-cost fuel contract, reduction in health care provider costs, reduction in recruitment and substitute teacher budgets, a 5 percent reduction in district-level department budgets, reductions in operational costs and enhanced energy conservation to trim its spending.

Members looked at the impact of those reductions and "the likelihood of continued state budget cuts," Crawley said. MUSD has experienced more than $8.6 million in state budget cuts since 2008.

"With the likelihood of further cuts in state education spending, the need for school districts to consider all options is necessary," according to an MUSD presentation on budgeting.

On Dec. 1, the group recommended to the board that it seek voter OK for a larger override in March.

If the higher override is passed, it would be implemented July 1, at the start of the 2010-'11 fiscal year. It would be in place for seven years.

If approved, MUSD's total secondary tax rate would be $1.03, 36 cents higher than the current tax. A property with assessed valuation of $100,000 would be taxed an additional $36 per year, Crawley said.

"We'd like to stress that MUSD has the ability to utilize cash from the district's existing debt service fund to eliminate this 36-cent increase to the secondary tax rate for the 2010-'11 tax payment, which means zero impact during the 2010-'11 tax year," she said. With use of the debt service fund, "we anticipate the ability to minimize future impacts to the taxpayer in future years," Crawley added.

A political action committee has formed to support the higher override.



Arguments on MUSD override are due Dec. 28


A Dec. 28 deadline has been established for arguments supporting or opposing a March 9 ballot initiative to override the maintenance and operation budget in the Marana Unified School District.

MUSD is asking patrons to pass a 15 percent override, one that would increase revenue to the district's general fund by $3.1 million a year. An information pamphlet, to be mailed to MUSD households, is being prepared. Arguments for or against the override would be included, according to a notice from Dr. Linda Lee Arzoumanian, Pima County school superintendent.

Arguments must be 200 words or less, with an original signature, name, address and phone number.

They may be delivered or mailed to the office of the Pima County school superintendent, attention Susan Hankinson, 130 W. Congress, 4th Floor, DT-AB4-127, Tucson, 85701, no later than 5 p.m. Monday. Facsimiles are not accepted.

For information on the ballot question, people may call Daniel Contorno, chief financial officer for MUSD, at 682-4756.

Voter registration closes Feb. 8. Early voting on the override begins Feb. 11.

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