Barry Goldstein: Vote ‘no’ on the AJUSD M&O budget override

The M&O override sought by the Apache Junction Unified School District seems to be strongly favored by the people of the district, or at least by those who speak out in support of it. I hope those eager voters will keep some of the following points in mind when casting their ballots:

•The AJUSD has presented this question several times in recent years, and the voters have rejected it on each occasion. The same cries of wolf we are hearing today were made in those previous years, and when the voters said “no,” the world didn’t come to an end after all. Instead, just like other households and businesses with limited finances, the AJUSD tightened its belt and continued to function, and function well, based on the honors and awards earned by the students.

•If this M&O override is approved by the voters it will remain in effect and the affected taxpayers will continue to pay a surcharge for seven years, amounting to hundreds or even thousands of dollars, depending on the amount of property taxes to which the surcharge will apply. There will be no opportunity to rescind the override during this seven-year period.

•One stated intent of the budget override is to increase employee compensation every year during the seven-year duration for which it will remain in effect. One can only wonder how many of the property owners that will fund the override can themselves count on a guaranteed raise in each of the next seven years.

•Why are we never provided by the AJUSD with a real budget, setting forth line item by line item and dollar by dollar exactly where the money goes and where the additional funds collected through the budget override will go? Instead, we are given vague references to areas that will receive aportion of those additional funds, and some of those areas bear little or no connection to improving educational quality. For example, the district claims a portion of the override monies will fund student and staff safety, to include school resource officers, anti-bullying and behavior-intervention programs and targeted transportation adjustments. Nowhere are dollar values assigned to these items. One can only wonder what an outside audit might reveal.

•Finally, while the proponents of the budget override warn of dire consequences that might result if the override is rejected, no actual facts are provided to substantiate the warnings. So, for example, we are told that failure to approve the override could result in higher class sizes, reduction of staff, transportation route adjustments, school closure, reduction in technology and reduction in athletics. These are the same sort of warnings we were given in previous years, and then, like now, no budgets or audits or other concrete facts were presented to sup-port the claims.

It is unfortunate that the AJUSD seems unable or unwilling to live within its means but considering the state of our economy, we taxpayers should not be expected to provide greater funding than that provided by our state government. Vote “no” on the M&O budget override.

Barry Goldstein
Apache Junction

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