All signs point towards a special election this November on a Scottsdale Unified School District request for renewal of the existing maintenance and operations budget override.
The school board has until Aug. 9 to call for the election under deadlines set by Maricopa County.
If called by the board, the election will take place Nov. 5.
The district is in the fifth year of a 2014 override that allows the district to exceed its revenue limit by 15 percent.
If approved in November, the authorization continuing that override would take effect on July 1, 2020 and expire June 30, 2025.
“It is a five-year authorization for a full 15 percent,” district interim CFO Jeff Gadd told the board May 14. “If you are not successful in the election, then it will ratchet down by five percent each year until it expires.”
That means the district would be authorized to exceed its revenue limit by 10 percent next year and 5 percent the year after that before it is phased out completely in the eighth year after the original authorization.
Though the override is a percentage and not a fixed amount every year, it is valued at approximately $19.5 million.
Gadd said a number of programs and services could end up in the voter pamphlet indicating what the override funds would support.
They include maintaining existing class sizes and all-day kindergarten and the continuation of special programs like music, art, world languages, athletics and extra-curricular activities.
Gadd also indicated the funds could support the district’s ongoing emphasis on technology education.
Additionally, the funds could affect the continuation of staff development programs and the district’s ability to offer competitive teacher pay.
“That last item is extremely important, as you know, because of the shortage that we have with teachers,” Gadd said.
District budget overrides are serviced by the secondary property tax leveled on property owners living within the district.
According to information presented at the May 14 board meeting, property owners in SUSD pay lower property taxes than residents in other comparable Valley districts.
“It is the lowest I have ever seen in my career. So is the tax rate the lowest I have seen in my career. It’s been a fairly long one and I have been in a lot of different places,” Gadd said.
Property owners in the district boundaries pay a total property tax rate of $3.704, including $1.136 in the secondary property tax used to service overrides, bonds and district desegregation funds.
If approved, the override would result in a continuation of the existing $0.37 tax on property owners and not an additional tax, Gadd said.
The next lowest district after Scottsdale is Gilbert Public Schools, with a total property tax rate of $6.105.
Gadd indicated the school district will incur some costs if the board calls the election and that the district’s maintenance and operations budget will cover those costs.
The most significant cost will be postage, Gadd said. The election will be mail-in only, based on a county decision.
Gadd said those ballot and mailing costs can be as high as $2 per voter and could cost between $100,000 and $200,000, though he had not priced out the exact number as of the meeting date.
It is unclear if the district will realize any savings on that cost due to a concurrent election being held by the City of Scottsdale on Nov. 5 in which the city will seek voter approval for a $319-million bond package.