SUSD board approves budget override vote

The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board approved an “early” vote to extend the current maintenance and operations (M&O) budget. A slide showed various homeowner override payments, based on home value. (SUSD)

Those who live in the Scottsdale Unified School District boundaries will be asked to “vote early” on a maintenance and operations (M&O) override.

At the April 4 meeting, Shannon Crosier, SUSD’s chief financial officer, introduced the district’s governing board to the idea of an “early vote.”

Crosier noted a vote this November “would be one year early,” as the current override expires at the end of 2024.

At its May 16 meeting, Crosier returned, this time requesting the early vote. By a 4-1 vote, the governing board approved an M&O override election for Nov. 7.

The November election will be all-mail.

An early vote is a bit of a hedge: If voters reject the override this year, the district will be able to ask them again next year.

“It gives us two opportunities to pass… If it doesn’t pass the first time, in many cases it passes the second time,” Crosier said, noting some previous M&O override requests have failed.

“It’s very common for districts to do an early vote, because it gives you two opportunities to get that passage,” Crosier said.

The cost of the vote is $2.12 per ballot, unless another city has a vote, which could slash the cost.

“The county won’t tell us how many voters we have until November,” Crosier said.

She projected the ballot will cost between $384,000 and $410,000.

The high ballot cost is due to this being considered a “special election.”

If the district waited until 2024 for the M&O request, the cost would fall to $.50 per ballot, Crosier said.

The lone dissenter was board member Amy Carney.

While stressing “I’m in absolute support of the M&O override,” Carney said the high cost of an early election is “wasteful.”

“Going early is four times more expensive than if we did (the election) in 2024 … It’s nearly $300,000 more to do it this year.”

She insisted the money should be spent in the classrooms.

Other board members focused on the relative low cost compared to the M&O budget. According to Crosier’s presentation, even at the high end, the ballot cost would be 0.22% of the M&O budget.

Voters will be asked to continue the currently approved 15% M&O override, approved by the voters in 2019.

If approved, the new authorization would take effect July 1, 2024, and be in effect for seven years (with a potential two year “phase out” if an extension is not approved).

According to Crosier’s presentation, “the current M&O override must pass by November 2024 or phaseout of approximately $7.3 million would start on July 1, 2025.”

If successful, the new override would raise around $22 million.

Approval will give the district authority to tax “approximately $0.3288 per $100 property taxable value,” based on current assessed valuation. That would translate to just under $100 for a $300,000 home, or about $170 for a $500,000 home.

The projected 2024 rate is slightly higher than the 2023-24 school year estimated M&O Override tax rate of $0.3180.

This is in addition to other taxes that primarily fund the district.

(Crosier displayed a slide titled “Fiscal Year 2022-2023 Tax Rate,” with Scottsdale the lowest of East Valley cities.)

According to the presentation, SUSD uses its M&O override money for:

• Maintaining current class size ratios.

• Maintaining all-day kindergarten.

• Music, arts, world languages, athletics and co-curricular activities.

• Technology.

• Staff professional development.

• Competitive teacher compensation.

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