Frequently Asked Questions about the Amphitheater Budget Override Election
Below are some questions and answers about the two Amphitheater Public Schools measures (Proposition 475 and Proposition 476) in the November 5, 2019 General Election.
What is a budget override?
School district budgets are very limited under Arizona law. No matter what an individual school district’s financial needs may be, state funding of our schools is limited to a specific amount per student – the same amount for every district all across the state. There are a few exceptions to this general funding rule. One of those exceptions is a state law that allows local voters to increase their school district’s maintenance and operations budget, or “overriding” state budget allocations, by up to 15% through a local tax.
How much of a budget override is Amphi seeking?
Although Arizona law currently allows school districts to override their state budget limits by 15%, Amphitheater is only seeking to expand its budget capacity by 13.5%. This is a combination of Proposition 475, which is a continuation of the 10% budget override it has had in place for the past 14 years, and Proposition 476, which would be a 3.5% override to improve K-3 education in the District.
Why is Amphitheater seeking approval to override its state budget allowance?
Many school districts across the state have a budget override in place, allowing them to offer more to their students than state funding allows. Amphi’s override has helped the District survive state education budget cuts totaling more than $107 million to Amphi alone.
When the District first approached taxpayers about the potential of a budget override in 2005, Arizona ranked 49th or 50th of all the United States in its financial support of K-12 public education.
Over the next 12 years (2005-2017), Arizona made continuous and significant cuts to public education funding. In fact, Amphitheater experienced over $100 million dollars in cuts to its educational funding from the State during that time. Even after the return of District Additional Assistance (previously known as capital funding) last year and the Governor’s “20 by 2020” plan to raise teacher salaries, the loss of funding due to years of cuts will never be fully recovered by the District.
The 10% Amphi override has provided the District with the ability to maintain lower class sizes, offer expanded and higher level courses to students, offer intervention programs for challenged learners, retain quality teachers and other staff, and guarantee Art, Music and P.E. classes for all elementary students taught by specially qualified staff. The District desires to keep these override funded programs in place, particularly after the state budget cuts.
Additionally, the District seeks a special-program override to pay for programs that directly affect its youngest learners. The override would fund free full-day kindergarten for all Amphitheater’s elementary and K-8 schools. Amphitheater Public Schools currently only offers free all-day Kindergarten to children attending schools that qualify for Title I funds given the ability to use Title I funds for this purpose. The funds would also be used to lower class sizes in kindergarten through third grade.
If I support this override election for Amphi, how can I be sure that the funds will be used for the right things?
Almost 15 years ago, a committee of citizens and leaders from Southern Arizona met over the course of several months to study the Amphi school district budget and determine if an override was warranted and, if so, what override funds should be used for. That “Blue Ribbon Committee” recommended several uses for override funds. Fifteen years later, the District’s Governing Board continues to hold true to the original intentions of those citizens and still uses override funds for the same purposes that citizens’ group recommended. The Governing Board is committed to doing the same for the future.
Will an override cause the school district tax levy on my property to increase?
That’s the remarkable thing about the override that Amphi is seeking. The impact on tax rates is minimal. In fact, because the 10% override is a continuation of an override that is already in place, homeowners will not see an increase in their tax bills if the 10 percent override continues.
If the K-3 override of 3.5% is also approved, the cost increase to the average homeowner would be about $43 per year.
Where does the funding for budget overrides come from?
Overrides of any type that are approved by the local voters are entirely funded by the levy of taxes on the secondary assessed value of property located within the district.
If voters have already approved the current 10% maintenance and operations override for Amphi, why do we have to have an election again?
Arizona law only allows school districts to receive voter approval for an M&O override for up to five years, before the override begins to phase out. Thus, in order to fully maintain the continuity of an override or its programs, an election must be held every five years.
How long will the overrides last if they are approved in November?
If the M&O override is renewed and the K-3 override is approved by the voters this November, it will last seven years. The override will be for the full amount approved by voters for years one through five. Unless renewed by voters, the override will phase down by one-third in year six, and by another one-third in year seven.
How can I be sure Amphi will use an override for the purposes that are promised and not for administrative costs?
The Amphitheater Governing Board is committed to using override funds for the purposes recommended by the citizen’s committees and as approved by the voters. In addition, school district budgets are open public records and can be reviewed by the public at any time. In the case of budget overrides, Arizona law also requires specific annual reporting on the use of those specific funds. This reporting must be done publicly.
Amphitheater Public Schools maintains low administrative costs as evidenced by the State Auditor General’s report, which is issued annually. In 2018, Amphi’s administrative costs were limited to 8.4% of its budget, which is well below the state average for similarly sized districts and below the national average.
How should I vote in November?
Although the Amphitheater School District Governing Board has called for the override election to be held in November, the Board, the District, and its employees – in their official capacities -- cannot make any recommendation on how the public should vote on the overrides. The District, its Board Members and staff can only provide neutral and factual information.
Community organizations that are separate from the District, such as LEAP Ahead 4 Amphi Schools can take an advocacy role on the override elections and may be able to provide you with additional information. Please note, however, that the District is prohibited from endorsing any organization that advocates for any ballot issue, including the District’s own override issues.
Can I vote in the Amphi Override election?
If you live within the boundaries of the Amphitheater School District and you are registered to vote on or before midnight on October 7, 2019, you are eligible to vote in the general election. If you do not know whether you are registered or eligible to vote, please contact the Pima County Recorder’s Office at (520) 740-4330.
What is the date of the Amphitheater Override election?
Tuesday, November 5, 2019.
Where can I vote?
If you are a registered voter in the Amphitheater school district and eligible to vote in this special election, you will receive a mail-in ballot from the Pima County Elections office. These are scheduled to be mailed Oct. 10. You will have until Oct. 30 to mail your ballot via U.S. Postal Service. You may also drop off your ballot at a voting location on Election Day, Nov. 5. More information is available here. Please scroll to the “General Election Information and read the section titled General Election Candidates and ballot measures.”
What time can I vote on Election Day?
The polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day. Any qualified voter who is in line to vote at 7 p.m. shall be allowed to prepare and cast their ballot.
Can the District give me any more information about the overrides or the election?
If you need more information about this District election, you may find it in the Voter Information Pamphlet that the District has published with the assistance of the Pima County School Superintendent’s Office. That pamphlet will be mailed out by the District to all registered voters. In addition, a copy of it will be posted online. You may also contact Michelle Tong, J.D., Associate to the Superintendent, Amphitheater Public Schools, 701 W. Wetmore Rd., Tucson, AZ, 85705, Office: (520) 696-5156.
I noticed that the voter information pamphlet only contains statements in favor of the override election and no statements against it. Why is that?
The District and the Pima County School Superintendent published notice of this override election as well as an invitation for the public to submit statements in favor and against the override ballot question. The Pima County School Superintendent only received statements in favor of passing the override and did not receive any against the override by the statutory deadline.