Mon, Jan. 20

Voters receive school override mail-in ballots

Ballots have now been mailed asking voters to decide whether they want to renew overrides for the Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union school districts.

The election is completely by mail, and ballots must be received by the County Recorder by Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. There are several 24-hour drop boxes where ballots can be left as well.

An override goes to the maintenance and operation portion of the school's budget. Voters will decide for or against each override individually.

In addition to Mingus and Cottonwood-Oak Creek, Sedona voters also will decide an override question for the Sedona-Oak Creek School District. Mingus and COCSD specifically want 10-percent override continuations that will allow them to exceed their per-pupil spending limit, called a "revenue control limit," set by the legislature.

The maintenance and operation budget in a school primarily pays for teacher salaries and benefits and is supported by local property taxes. The monthly cost for both schools is about $5.50 for owners of a $100,000 home and contributes about $600,000 more per year for Mingus and nearly a $1 million for COCSD.

COCSD's override has been in place since 1993 and goes toward maintaining small class sizes, fine arts, health support and counseling, said Superintendent Barbara U'Ren.

"The community has supported both COCSD and MUHSD overrides for more than two decades," U'Ren said in a statement. "This support has been appreciated by the districts and greatly by the students who have enjoyed the benefits of programs that override dollars support."

The Mingus override has been in place since 1985 and funds intervention programs and fine arts like theater and band.

Mingus Superintendent Paul Tighe said Arizona schools experienced some of the worst budget cuts in the nation at about 22 percent since 2008. He pointed to an auditor general's report that compared how state districts distribute public dollars.

"There's no fat," Tighe said. "We put more money in the classroom and have lower administrative costs."

When last renewed, voters just barely sided in favor of continuing the tax.

"It's a desperate time for schools and funding is really critical," Tighe said.

Call the voter registration office at 928-771-3248 with questions.

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