Learn about override before voting

Editor:

On Nov. 5, 2019, the Payson Unified School District will seek voter approval for the continuation of our current maintenance and operations override.

A maintenance and operations override (M&O) supports programs such as music, physical education, technology, AP classes and helps regulate class size.

This is not a new tax, but the continuation of the current tax. For an average homeowner with a home assessed at $166,000 (which is a market value of about $300,000), the tax impact would be roughly $87 per year.

The district’s main source of funding is from the state. We receive funding based on average daily membership (ADM). The federal government also contributes to programs such as Title 1, special education and free and reduced lunch programs.

Overrides are tools that a community can use to provide funds for their local schools above and beyond what the state provides.

If you are a registered voter, you will be receiving your ballot in the mail on or about Oct. 10. Please take the time to educate yourself about this very important decision and return your ballot.

Stan Rentz, superintendent

Payson Unified School District

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(4) comments

Charles Eby

I find Phil's response very informative. One thing I don't understand is if the PUSD schools are indeed failing, how will reducing their budget by ending the override make them better? Is the poor showing of PUSD students due to poor quality teachers or administrators, the quality of its students, too much or too little budget, or something else? I think everyone's goal should be to improve the education of our children and grandchildren. Does Phil or anyone else have a road map to this goal?


Phil Mason

I have no provable guarantee for improving student achievement, but I can tell you that over my 75 years, I have never found ANY district improving its product when the public not only maintains, but increases the support of the current product with no accountability. I find it irrational to expect PUSD to improve their outcomes when they are not held accountable for the failures they have created. There is an old saying: "Throwing good money after bad." PUSD revenues in their largest income stream - more than double the state appropriation - has INCREASED by 30% this decade. Additionally, he legislature INCREASED state appropriations two years ago. District schools say they cannot teach traditional core subjects effectively because they are forced to "teach to the test" yet they fail abysmally in that effort when only 31% of the students pass the test they are teaching to.







For those who know the story of The Emperor's New Clothes, this appears to have a similar underlying reality. Property owners are told PUSD simply needs more money to achieve success, yet a constant improvement in money over this decade has not improved this critical goal.







I am most frustrated and feel betrayed when the administration and board complain that low teacher pay causes the loss of better teachers and use that as an excuse for poor performance when the administration and board has voted to take money from the teachers. 61.5% of the total income to PUSD used to be spent for teachers salaries and benefits. Now only 49.7% if the total income is spent for that budget item.







After many years providing research data for the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, I became convinced that until the voters hold districts like PUSD accountable for what they receive, districts have never and will never correct their questionable fiscal decisions and failed student achievement results. It is past time to demand results prior to any more money being flushed down the rabbit's hole.



Remember the Override is 01.25% of their current income. Any good manager can find that amount of waste and inefficiency within their company.


Don Evans

Just an addendum to the excellent letter against the local override. Be aware that the NEW Arizona State Sales Tax Policy is now in effect. Any internet computer purchase is now subject to a 9.6 % combined sales tax on all items. The combined tax formula includes State, City, County of residence. More taxation on all of us to add to the mix. And what do we all get for it? State, City, County bureaucrats spending it on their pet projects.


Phil Mason

For one of a few times, I agree with the headline in a letter from a district school administrator, however, that is the only thing about the letter that is worthy of agreement. As the former research director for the Arizona Joint Legislative Audit Committee, I acquired an in-depth understanding of school finance permutations not known by many others. To say that I am sorely disappointed with Supt. Rentz would be a major understatement. I met with the Superintendent at his request for a two hour meeting on the total funding streams for the district and he promised to work with me on the financial history and projections. That promise has not been fulfilled.







As to this misleading letter, the Superintendent tells a whopper when he states that "the district's main source of funding is from the state". In fact, according to the annual report signed by the superintendent of the district, over 60% of the district's funding comes from local property taxes on every home and business in the district. The superintendent knows that, as we discussed that fact in detail in our meeting. Now they want even more of your money to fund a failing enterprise. (State funding comprises less than half the local property taxes.)







PUSD is conscripting 30% more from local property taxes this year than earlier this decade while student population is down by approx. 10%. In conjunction with this huge increase in revenues, PUSD has cynically reduced appropriations to the classroom by more than 20% while misleading the public - including teachers - that they have been the victim of reduced funding. That story line is a complete fabrication.







Why do I say that PUSD is a failing enterprise?? The answer is simple and very disappointing. Today we received the results for the AZMerit test scores and PUSD high school students managed to fall to the bottom of the barrel in the lack of student achievement with only 37% of the high school students managing to pass the test in English and an even worse 31% managing to pass the test in mathematics.







The bottom line, the school district is fleecing the property owners in the district with an ever increasing amount of tax liabilities while failing their only reason for existence - educating our children to compete in the world after graduation.







Vote NO - NO - NO until the district is honest about the money they get and actually educate our students.


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