With Prop 100 OK, local school districts look to final budgets
Photo courtesy of Ryan Stouffer, Teachers from Coronado K-8 School stand on the corner at Oracle and Wilds roads last Wednesday morning to express thanks to voters for passing Proposition 100.

By a margin of nearly 2-1, Arizona voters have passed Proposition 100, the three-year, 1 percent sales tax increase expected to generate up to $1 billion a year to help fund primary and secondary education, health and human services and public safety.

The increase takes effect June 1.

Statewide, the tax passed with 750,228 votes (64.3 percent) in favor, 416,234 (35.7 percent) against, according to the secretary of state's office. Voters in every county except one approved the tax. In Pima County, the vote was 144,134-77,645.

Dr. Doug Wilson, superintendent of the Marana Unified School District, was "pleasantly surprised" by the affirmative margin.

"Based on the economic reality that we're in, I know there are a lot of people that had to think long and hard before they voted 'yes,'" Wilson said Tuesday. "Certainly, the education community is appreciative of those who voted 'yes'.

"I hope that is an indication the state of Arizona is very, very supportive of those services, not only education, but safety, child services, those kinds of things people need," Wilson said.

"I think we had a larger portion of the public that is engaged to a level of really understanding the challenges that both the economy has as well as where we are in terms of funding Arizona K-12 education," said Dr. Vicki Balentine, the Amphitheater School District's superintendent.

The public "started to get engaged around this 1 percent sales tax," Wilson said Tuesday, and he hopes the engagement continues.

With the passage, MUSD expects to be able to bring back all but two of 64 teachers who were given reduction-in-force notices last month, Wilson said.

"We also have a whole lot of support staff we're not able to bring back," Wilson said. "We're still cutting $5.6 million total. We're still having to make significant cuts."

He is "mindful and respectful of those people that were RIF'd that we aren't able to bring back." Among them – half the district's kindergarten aides, and more than 40 custodians who are losing positions because MUSD has accelerated a move to contracting privately for such work. Other jobs are being eliminated at the district level.

MUSD expects to raise class sizes by one student each across the district, rather than up to four as considered if Proposition 100 had failed.

Even with the tax increase, Amphitheater School District must cut about $8 million from its budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

"Back in the middle of April, our board passed the scenarios either way," Balentine said. "So we already have a determination, from our governing board, where we are making our reductions."

The district is eliminating much of its free full-day kindergarten, increasing class sizes, and reducing support staff and faculty across the district. It plans to provide full-day kindergarten at its Title 1-funded schools; at others, parents will have to pay a $1,200 kindergarten tuition plus $100 for supplies.

Balentine said several officials are looking to get their staffs in place during the month of June to see what the coming year's staff and faculty will look like. The district will approve its preliminary budget by middle to late June and approve its official budget in July.

"For the benefit of our staff I am certainly hoping that we are able to have somewhat of a smooth year next year and looking forward to that," Balentine said. "I know with the Arizona economy, we are certainly not out of the woods. We still have a lot of unknowns."

Wilson remains a proponent of a larger, broader conversation regarding education funding in Arizona. "It's a difficult conversation to have at this time," he said. But, if Arizona had "a steady revenue stream specific for public education," it would not have to ride the emotional roller-coaster of funding uncertainty, RIF notices and other anxiety.

"I'm sensitive to the fact people are struggling, have lost jobs, have lost income," he said. "But the reality is we don't pay a lot in taxes. If you're an individual, you don't pay a lot in income tax, or property tax. So the constant conversation the no-tax people have, in regards to our taxes being too high, they're too high if you don't want taxes at all. If you don't pay taxes, you don't have services."


The Prop 100 vote:

Statewide: 750,228-416,234

Pima County: 144,134-77,645

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