Voter confusion about the difference between a bond and an override could soon have devastating and unexpected consequences for Blue Ridge Schools. The short definition is that bonds support buildings, books, and buses. Overrides support people and programs.

Continuation of the existing Override approved in 2014 was the question put to the Blue Ridge Override Committee recently. Override dollars are critical to our schools’ operations and educational programs. The district is not seeking a tax increase, nor asking for additional funds. Approval of the Override will simply continue that which is already in place.

Arizona public schools are underfunded, and most local communities provide additional financial support in the form of bonds and overrides. These precious resources enable public school districts to partially meet funding gaps that have existed in most schools since the Great Recession of 2008.

Despite recent efforts to improve teacher salaries and restore capital funding over the next five years, most public schools districts still struggle to provide the most basic resources for their students and staff.

Arizona school funding has not been restored to 2008 levels. Even before the Great Recession, Arizona public school districts suffered low levels of student base level support when compared to other states. Our state routinely is ranked at or near the bottom in per-pupil spending.

The complexity of school funding often confuses taxpayers, as evidenced by the recent story which indicated the Blue Ridge District was seeking the renewal of a “bond override.” There is no such thing. The district is asking to maintain the existing Maintenance & Operations (M&O) Override approved in 2014. Continuing the current Override will not increase tax rates or provide funds beyond what our schools currently receive.

I am happy to report a significant majority of the M&O Override Committee participants (55 versus 3) indicated support for the continuance of the existing M&O Override in place since 2014. Our Override funds help support critical educational programs and positions, helping us to maintain our current levels of staffing districtwide. Again, please note that continuation of the Override will not increase taxes.

During our Override meetings, confusion surfaced about bonds and overrides, and how each source may be used.

For example, the Bond passed in 2016 can ONLY be used for capital items (buildings, books, and buses). Bond dollars CANNOT be used to hire people, including teachers. Bonds support our schools’ capital needs (buildings, books, and buses) while overrides support people (teachers and support staff).

Again, to maintain our current level of staffing (including the number of teachers now employed), it is essential for our Override dollars to continue (provided such action is approved by the Governing Board), June of 2019.

Significantly, the district has had an Override in place since 2001. It is my objective to ensure education stakeholders understand the significance of continuing this support going forward. Simply put, we need to keep the current M&O Override to avoid a significant reduction in teaching positions at virtually every grade level districtwide.

A decrease in Blue Ridge’s workforce would be devastating! The Override must continue. It is not a tax increase. It does not provide additional funds.

In closing, remember overrides support people, and bonds support things. It is critical this message is well-understood and conveyed to our community. Working together, I am confident the needs of our staff and students will be met. Continuing the existing Override is critical to these efforts.

Dr. Michael Wright is Superintendent of Blue Ridge Unified School District. 32.

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