Five years ago, Catalina Foothills School District residents approved a 13.3 percent budget override for the school district capital fund, which brought in about $3.5 million a year for the district.
With the elections coming up, CFSD voters are again asked to cast their votes to renew the override, barring that the renewal of the present rate won’t incur new taxes.
According to Julie Farbarik, director of CFSD alumni and community relations, the override funding doesn’t target any specific need, but rather provides general funding and support to the district’s eight schools. Farbarik said that since the cost to operate schools are often much higher than the revenue stream allocated by the state, more and more districts begin to rely on the local tax base.
As the district awaits on the elections results in November, Farbarik said that there isn’t much officials can do to influence the outcome of an election. Board members and school employees may answer questions from a factual perspective on the impact to the school district depending on the election’s outcome.
“School districts may remind their patrons that there is an election in November, giving the date and suggesting that they vote,” Farbarik said.
There are those in the community advocating for the override’s renewal, including a volunteer group called FRIENDS of CFSD.
The group identifies themselves as “advocates for strong public education system.” They work directly with community residents to educate them about ballot issues affecting the district. The group also works to build an effective grassroots advocacy group to provide support for quality education in future elections.
CFSD Superintendent Mary Kamerzell said she hopes the current override rate previously approved by voters will still be adequate in the future, rather than proposing an increase to generate additional dollars.
“We have been at 13.3 percent for a long time,” Kamerzell said. “Arizona law permits districts to go as high as 15 percent, with voter approval.”
According to Kamerzell, the distirct operations budget is funded from several revenue sources, which include basic state funding, local override dollars, federal monies and private funds generated by the district’s family-faculty organizations and the CFSD Foundation.
“That has been the case for 20-plus years,” Kamerzell said. “Losing any of this funding would negatively impact our ability to preserve the quality education that we provide for our students.”
According to Farbarik, the override runs over a course of seven years. The funding starts to phase out in the outer years if voters don’t approval a renewel.
“Next year is our fifth year of the current override,” Farbarik said. “If the override doesn’t pass, eventually, CFSD would see a 13.3 percent overall reduction in funding, to the tune of about $3.6 million annually.”
Farbarik added that failure to pass the override would mean that staffing would likely be reduced, causing class sizes to rise.
“We would have to evaluate each of our programs to see which ones would remain viable,” she said.
Dalal Radwan is a University of Arizona journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.