School Will Put Override Question On Fall Ballot

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Voters will decide this November whether Payson schools will continue to receive about $1.3 million a year over their base operating budget for the next five years.

A budget override approved in 2004 is set to dwindle in its sixth year -- fiscal year 2010 -- with funds reduced by 66 percent, before the money drops to 33 percent of the $1 million in the seventh year.

"If they don't say yes to the reauthorization, then our monies get cut before they go away all together," said Bobette Tomerlin, Payson Unified School District's assistant superintendent for business services.

The money is to maintain programs, not expand them, district officials say.

"It's pretty critical," said Superintendent Casey O'Brien, in an interview Monday, prior to that evening's board meeting where the resolution was quietly approved.

For the average taxpayer, approving the $1,336,000 request will not result in a tax increase since an override already exists. The average taxpayer would continue to pay an extra $82 annually on their property tax bill.

"We're not looking at an increase," O'Brien said. Though, "marginally there can be some fluctuating with the (property) valuation."

As with this year a lower tax rate is expected, according to Tomerlin.

District officials say music programs, elementary gym classes, certified librarians, and small class sizes depend on continuing the override. The extra funds also pay salaries for eight teachers.

"We're not looking at new programs, we're looking at maintaining programs," O'Brien said.

In other school district financial news, the second part of the $33 million bond voters approved two years ago for a new elementary school and other building remodels will go on sale in August.

Selling the debt in today's skittish financial market presents challenges, said financial counselor to the district, Mike LaVallee, of Phoenix's Stone and Youngberg.

But the good news is the district's taxable value has risen faster than originally predicted, allowing an early debt sale, according to Tomerlin.

"Rates have gone up in the last three weeks, unfortunately, but they can go back down," LaVallee said. During the first or second week in August, the district will "lock in" rates.

For school officials, the early sale offers fiscal salve. "We were looking at a challenging cash flow situation," O'Brien said.

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