In front of an audience of 14 people made up of parents, school staff, and PTO board members, Andrew L Rogers, Ed.D laid out the district's funding challenges.
Liberty voters approved the first M&O override in 1983. 2011 was the last time it was renewed. The existing override will phase down and terminate by June 30, 2019. It is now up for renewal again with the 2016-17 budget.
Voter authorized overrides are effective for seven years and phase down in those last two years. In order to continue, they must be renewed through election.
"School districts in Arizona are allowed by state law to increase their Maintenance & Operations (M&O) budgets each year by up to 15% of the revenue control limit by the state legislature." And that's exactly what the district intends to do... 15%.
Dr. Rogers explained how the district is using $900,000 in reserves this year to maintain low class sizes, signature programs, compensation increases, and cost increases. "The $900,000 helps offset the $2.4 million reduction in charter funding that was eliminated by the state legislature."
Dr. Rogers reports enrollment in the entire Liberty Elementary School District is up 3% with the most growth at the new Las Brisas Academy which opened this year. The district anticipated a shift in enrollment from some of its schools to Las Brisas.
Many times, residents talk about the shift in enrollment from Estrella Mountain Elementary School to Westar Elementary. Dr. Rogers stated 70% of last year's Kindergarten class at Estrella Mountain Elementary actually lived outside of the Estrella Mountain Elementary boundaries. Fewer homeowners in the Estrella Mountain Elementary boundaries have school-aged children. While Westar's boundaries have a much higher level of school-aged children.
With the current budget battle between Arizona public schools and the state legislature, Dr. Rogers says it's no longer possible to maintain low class sizes. The goal in this era is to maintain current class sizes. The days of less than 30 children in a classroom can longer be promised.
Earlier in September, Dr. Rogers addressed the Goodyear City Council during a work session to discuss the state of education in the West Valley. I covered that conversation on the West Valley Families page here.
"The Court of Appeals has ruled that the Legislature is responsible to provide the annual 2% inflation factor that has been suspended for four years." Dr. Rogers says that's about $300,000 annually for Liberty and culminates to being nearly $1.2 million. This all sits in a judge's hands and we should know more in two weeks.
Do you remember the days when the district stated it wanted to "recruit and maintain" teachers? Now, the goal is to "provide competitive salaries" in a state that has a troubling teacher shortage.
The Liberty Elementary School District Governing Board approved a 15% override on the November 2015 ballot. This represents a $750,000 increase in the district budget.
Just four items in this override. They are:
The override election is November 3, 2015. during the general election. Early voting starts October 8th. The last day to register to vote is October 5th.
COST TO TAXPAYERS
This information comes from the Liberty Elementary School District informational flyer:
"With voter approval to continue and increase the override, it is estimated that the total amount of the override for fiscal year 2016-17 will be $1.29 tax rate per $100 of net assessed valuation, or $169 on a home with a limited property value (the value required under state law, as amended) of $131,320. The District's current 10% M&O override is by law required to be reduced by one-third in each of fiscal years 2017-18 and 2018-2019."
MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD
Whether you are for or against an override, you do have a say.
Register to vote or update your voter information with the Arizona Secretary of State here.
You must be registered by October 5, 2015 to vote in the general election.
I was stunned that just 14 people felt compelled to show up to hear about the upcoming election. However, it must be noted that typically, voters in the Estrella area tend to be aged 50+. Voters tend to be homeowners who want to live in good neighborhoods with good schools.
November 5, 2013 - Liberty Elementary School District Bond Election
Maricopa County Recorder Office
Goodyear voter turnout historically has been very low. This chart shows less than 30% of registered voters fill out a ballot and return it to be tallied.
For more information, please visit the Liberty Elementary School District Override Information Fact Sheet on the web here.
DATES and TIMELINES:
• Informational Pamphlet Mailed: September 29, 2015
• Last Day to Register to Vote: October 5, 2015
• Early Voters Ballots Mailed: October 8, 2015
• Election Day: November 3, 2015
The dates for canvassing in the Estrella community are:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer Barber is a Goodyear resident resident of almost 20 years and a retired broadcast news journalist. Involved in various nonprofit and city organizations since 2008, Barber has a unique view of what's happening in the West Valley of Arizona.