Barry Goldstein: Look to charter school for ideas on lowering AJUSD budget

Once again proving that governmental entities have no concept of living within their means, the governing board of the Apache Junction Unified School District has decided to seek a maintenance and operations budget override on this November’s ballot. Apparently, the board members have learned nothing from their repeated defeat at the polls over their last several override attempts. In fact, just to prove they still have the nerve to get right in the taxpayer’s face, they’re seeking a 15 percent override, the maximum amount permitted by law. When was the last time you received a 15 percent salary increase? And by the way, to add insult to injury, this M&O override comes at a time when Pinal County is proposing a 6 percent increase in primary property taxes.

Perhaps the board hopes they sufficiently frightened the taxpayers when they closed a school and adopted a four-day school week after last year’s defeat at the polls. But a wary taxpayer, rather than feeling threatened, is more likely to ask why a 15 percent override – or any override for that matter – is necessary, since the board balanced its budget just one year ago through the most extreme means possible. One can only wonder how much effort the board expended researching less-extreme budgetary measures.

Before we knuckle under and reluctantly agree to this pick-pocket by government, a look at another school and how it handled its budgetary problems might be instructive. An article in the Apache Junction/Gold Canyon News (June 15-21), described the Sierra Preparatory Academy as a tuition-free public charter school in east Mesa. Although its short term funding has been cut by 12.5 percent, its board has approved a budget that maintains class size at 22 students and preserves a five-day school week. Teacher salaries are also unaffected. Clearly, the response to a budgetary cut by this school’s governing board, compared to the response by the AJUSD Governing Board to its budgetary problems is that of night and day. Perhaps Dr. Chad Wilson, superintendent, and the members of the AJUSD Governing Board should enroll in the Sierra Preparatory Academy. They might learn something about living within a budget and respecting the people who pay the freight.
Barry Goldstein
Apache Junction

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