WHITE MOUNTAINS — According to unofficial election results, voters in the Blue Ridge Unified School District No. 32 in Pinetop-Lakeside have narrowly defeated the re-authorization for the budget override in that district by just 263 votes. There were 1,287 YES votes and 1,550 NO votes.
Blue Ridge Superintendent Dr. Michael Wright offered a brief statement on Wednesday.
“We are obviously very disappointed with the election results. However, we remain committed to doing all within our power to support our students and staff, despite some difficult days ahead. We wish to express our sincere thanks to all that supported the override effort, and to our dedicated staff and their unwavering commitment to our kids and their profession,” Wright said in an e-mail.
BRUSD has had an override in place since 2001. But this week’s election was for the renewal of a 15 percent maintenance and operations override that was adopted by voters in 2014. Once adopted, override funding is in place for 7 years. But if it is not renewed by voters in the fourth or fifth year, the override funding is gradually phased out by 1/3 every year over a three-year period.
In a phone interview Wright also said the district was now facing $600,000 in cuts for the 2020-2021 school year.
Wright said that since 2014, the school district has faced increasing costs that cannot be funded without override dollars, including higher minimum wages, the rising costs of healthcare and rising costs of special education. He said that now the district will begin making budget cuts before the end of the calendar year. While he said he was not sure about teacher layoffs at this point, “It is certain we will have fewer teachers next year,” he said.
All-day kindergarten may also be on the budget chopping block, as the state only funds half-day kindergarten.
“The legislature has shifted the burden of school funding to the local communities,” Wright said.
The St. Johns Unified School District also had a renewal for a maintenance and operations override on the ballot. The unofficial election results show that the override was narrowly approved, by just 10 votes — with 326 YES votes and 316 NO votes.
Whether a recount has been called in that election is not yet clear.
Outside of the White Mountain area, voters approved two other Navajo County school override elections in the Winslow Unified School District with 692 YES votes to 305 NO votes; and in the Joseph City Unified School District with 213 YES votes and 112 NO votes.