Roughly five years ago, we the voters in Blue Ridge Unified School District narrowly approved a 15% Maintenance and Operations (M&O) budget override for our local schools.

At that time, state funding for public schools was at a low point, teachers and staff had not received salary increases in several years, class sizes were increasing, curriculum was being reduced and our facilities were deteriorating. Yes this override approval resulted in a very nominal property tax increase, but it was clear that if we wanted great schools in our community, with excellent and dedicated staff, we could not rely solely on state funding. The district responded wisely, spending this supplemental funding in the areas with the most impact on student achievement — teacher/staff salaries, stabilizing curriculum and class sizes, restoring art, music, and gifted programs, fully funding all-day kindergarten, emphasizing K-3 reading achievement, adjusting and reducing Administrative Staff, making significant improvements in technology, and addressing several safety and security issues.

Although the state funding picture has improved a bit (primarily in assistance with teacher salary increases), our public schools are still not funded to support the total job we ask them to do, and Blue Ridge is no exception. By law, all M&O budget overrides expire after 5 years and must be renewed by the District voting public if this supplemental funding is to continue. That time is now! Our November 5 local ballot will contain a question as to whether we support the continuation of this budget override, with no increase in existing tax rates.

Without the continuation of this supplemental funding, the School District will once again be forced to reduce teaching and support staff, modify or eliminate courses and programs, and generally backslide from the significant improvements that have been made over the last 5 years.

Please join me in voting YES to continue the M&O Budget Override, with no additional tax burden, to allow Blue Ridge to continue to make the kind of progress already demonstrated. For the sake of our kids, strong schools matter!

George Turner,

Pinetop

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