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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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11/3/2013 8:56:00 AM
School override defeats would phase out $1.5 million by 2017

Yvonne Gonzalez
Staff Reporter


Voters have until Tuesday to decide whether business managers at the Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union school districts have to start trimming their budgets after the next academic year.

Both districts are seeking overrides that use property taxes to fund districts at 10 percent more than the limit approved by the state. The overrides passed by close margins in 2009, and the schools will have one more election after this November to convince voters not to phase out less than $1 million from COCSD and almost $500,000 from Mingus' maintenance and operations budget.

Losing an override means a district has to cut people, said Chuck Essigs, director of governmental relations for the Arizona Association of School Business Officials. AASBO is a nonprofit organization that provides school finance training and professional development.

According to Partners in Education, a group promoting the overrides locally, the state has cut education funding by 22 percent over the last five years. Mingus and COCSD lost more than $3 and $6 million respectively.

"For a lot of districts out there getting their override renewed, it's a double hit," Essigs said. "They've faced all these cuts in the budget, and this is another significant cut on top of cuts that districts have already faced."

Mingus and COCSD are going after their overrides a year early. If they do not pass, maintenance and operations funding will remain the same for the 2014-2015 academic year, but would begin reducing by one third starting in the fall of 2015.

By the 2017-18 academic year, Mingus could go from roughly $5,941,000 to less than $5,347,000 and COCSD could fall to $8,775,000 from $9,750,000.

The Chandler Unified School District, the third-largest district in the state, lost their override election last year. Also a year early, this November is the district's last chance to convince voters without having to start phasing out about $7 million in the maintenance and operations budget.

Director of Community Relations Terry Locke said while higher voter turnout during presidential election years usually helps pass overrides, but with the one-cent sales tax increase also competing for approval voters rejected Chandler's override.

A community group, Yes for Chandler Students, is using social media to promote the override. The group's Facebook page has more than 2,500 likes, but Locke said getting people to vote is a concern.

"The turnout will be much much smaller this year," Locke said. "Typically turnout helps us, so it's definitely a concern."

More than 30 percent of mail-in ballots have been returned to the Yavapai County Recorder as of midday Oct. 30. All votes must be received by the county recorder or submitted to a drop box by 7 p.m. on Nov. 5.

Clarkdale's 24-hour drop box is at Town Hall, 39 N. 9th Street, and Cottonwood's is at the County Administration Building, 10 S. 6th St.

Taylor Waste

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Article comment by: Gaia Gurl

@ Hey

Not real BRIGHT are ya?

If we keep GIVING them money, they are going to CONTINUE to spend it on REDUNDANT administration.

Obviously, you HAVEN'T been reading my posts. ONE superintendent for the ENTIRE Verde Valley.

Now YOU do the MATH.



Posted: Monday, November 4, 2013
Article comment by: Hey Gaia Gurl!

The ballot that I received did not say anything about unification or shared services, so I guess we aren't voting on that this year.

You need to go back and check your math if you thank that combining 2 superintendents would save more than 10% of what this override is asking for these 2 districts. If we do that, where do you propose we get the additional 90% of these overrides from?

Put your glasses back on and check your figures again. Vote YES YES for the kids!


Posted: Sunday, November 3, 2013
Article comment by: T. Hearn

More than 30% return by mid-day October 30 is great news. At this rate, this election may top 2009's 41% total returns.

Thanks for a very informative article!


Posted: Sunday, November 3, 2013
Article comment by: Override money in COCSD NOT spent in classroom

Unfortunately this article does not report on the declining classroom spending in the COC school district.

In the COCSD, independent financial audits show classroom spending is at an all time low, and trending lower under the administration of Superintendent Barbara Uren.

In recent years, the COCSD has cut or reduced sports, full time kindergarten teachers, counselors, nurses, and special ed programs, just to name a few.

Even though the district has enjoyed override money for many years, we still see teachers shorted on classroom supplies. Some report spending hundreds of dollars just to do their jobs.

Some teachers report 35 students in a classroom. Others say they have not had a raise in many years.

Classroom supplies, smaller class sizes, and money for teachers are precisely why we should vote in favor of the override, but in the COCSD our money is not being spent that way.

Where is our money going? For one, Superintendent Uren reportedly makes more than the Governor. Her salary alone is roughly 15% of the entire override.

We also know administrators and school board members often attend out of town social networking events using our educational tax dollars.

This district was also recently fined $60,000 plus ongoing expenses for failing to provide adequate special ed services, and fabricating information about it to parents.

So misplaced priorities, mismanagement, and bloated administrator salaries all help explain why our classroom dollars are vanishing.

Voting NO for the COCSD override is the only way citizens have to express disapproval of the policies of this district. And they have every right to.

We can do better than this. Vote no until the COCSD gets better priorities and better leadership.


Posted: Sunday, November 3, 2013
Article comment by: Low Voter Turnout

Only 30% return by Oct 30? This does not bode well for the area schools. With only a few days left to vote, does this translate to only maybe 40% of our residents care at all about education? Do people not realize that we have the education spending issue as well as the "my taxes" issue here?
I find it hard to believe so few people care about where their money goes.
"I'm from the government. Hand me your pay check."


Posted: Sunday, November 3, 2013
Article comment by: Slater slater

Maintenance and operations?Hilton Hotels for
meetings is operations.


Posted: Saturday, November 2, 2013
Article comment by: Gaia Gurl

Oh WELL, guess they better consolidate to ONE super!

Then they will NEVER miss that money.




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