ST. JOHNS — Residents received ballots in the mail for the Nov. 5 special election, concerning the a Maintenance and Operations (M&O) budget override for the St. Johns Unified School District.
A M&O budget override is done to help a school district fund everything that falls under their maintenance and operations budget, which includes teacher salaries, school supplies, sports equipment, electricity, propane, and more. For Arizona, such a budget override can be up to 15% of the budget. For the St. Johns Unified School District, the amount requested is 9%.
“It’s not a new tax,” Ed Burgoyne, Superintendent of the St. Johns Unified School District said. “It’s an existing tax that’s just up for renewal, so it won’t really change taxes at all by voting ‘yes’.”
The M&O override has been seen in many elections for St. Johns over the years because it has been approved for over three decades.
“We have never had the community not pass an M&O override,” Burgoyne said. “They have always been very generous.”
M&O Overrides are for terms of seven years but are brought to voters every five years. This system ensures that the school district has no gaps in funding if the public approves and reapproves of a budget override. In the event that the public votes no on an override, the seven-year term also gives the school district more time to deal with the budget shortfall. If the public votes no at the five-year mark, then in year six, the amount decreases by one-third, and in year seven, by two-thirds, before going away completely.
After Oct. 30, ballots must be returned by hand to Apache County in order for the votes to count in time for the Nov. 5 election.
Amber Shepard is an local journalist covering municipal governments and other Apache County topics.