School Board Puts Off Override Decision

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Continuing legislative uncertainty convinced the Payson Unified School District Board to put off deciding whether to seek approval of an override voters flunked in November.

The board will discuss the issue again at its July 28 board meeting. By then, the legislature should answer two still big questions, said Superintendent Casey O’Brien.

One unresolved question is whether voters statewide will decide on a one-cent sales tax increase Gov. Jan Brewer has floated as an answer to the state’s huge deficit.

Second, the legislature may pass a provision allowing schools to hold March elections. The legislature had originally passed this bill, but the measure was among those Brewer vetoed during the budget process, O’Brien said.

Because lawmakers previously passed the bill, they could pass it again. “But when people are jockeying for votes on different issues, you never know what may get into the final mix,” O’Brien added.

If the state sales tax measure makes a November election, O’Brien said the district would likely wait until next March to ask for the override. The district must give at least 90 days notice if it wants to hold an election. That makes late July about the latest date possible for a decision.

If the legislative questions remain unresolved, O’Brien said he would recommend that the district mail out ballots in November. Last November, about 53 percent of voters denied the 10 percent maintenance and operations override. At the time, O’Brien speculated that high turnout from the general election could have spurred the failure.

The override would represent 10 percent of the district’s $14.6 million operations fund this year. This year, the district lost $445,000 because of the defeated override. It also eliminated 11 positions and district-paid dental insurance to erase its $1 million operations deficit.

The measure would not have increased taxes and the tax rate will drop this year as the override decreases by one-third every year in a phase out.

However, advocates speculated that point was not made clear enough to the general public. In November, at least one opponent said government should scale back as the economy does.

O’Brien said an override committee is already in place, and that the group will communicate more with the public.

“There are folks who say, ‘I went to school. We didn’t have things like music, art. Why is that necessary now?’” O’Brien said. “The doctor, the nurse, the firefighter who are thinking about coming to Payson — it matters to them.”

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