by Patrick O’Malley
Precinct Committeeman LD12
Gilbert Public Schools (GPS) finished their zero based budgeting process some time ago and were given several budget options from which to choose. They could have gone for steeper cuts in the budget immediately (option C), but chose less cuts this year and are now discussing asking the voters for an override to avoid the additional cuts that will come up next year. A 10% override has been mentioned, but there are no specific proposals yet.
Almost every school district has one or more property tax overrides in place. It’s the new normal. Capital improvement overrides provide additional money for a specific purpose, like a major upgrade of a school district’s computer system. Maintenance and Operation (M&O) overrides provide schools with additional money for everyday expenses. Theoretically they are used to get past a financial rough patch, but there aren’t any examples of that happening. Instead, the school spends the money like it will be there forever, and as the time approaches for the override to expire, they begin the process of asking the voters for another override to keep the money coming. That’s what is being talked about at GPS.
What Happened to the Technology Override Money?
Another issue with overrides is that the additional money doesn’t always get used the way it was sold to voters. In 2007 GPS voters passed a $57.4 million dollar capital override for computers and internet access. That’s a lot of technology, $1400 per student, but where are the results? There are a few technology bright spots within GPS, but overall the capability is fair to poor.
What Happened to the Override to Replace Buses?
GPS voters also passed an override they were told would replace school buses. It’s normal for schools to operate a bus for 20 years and then replace it with a new $200,000 bus. So each year a school district should be replacing 5% of its buses. The money was approved by the voters, but GPS only replaced a few of its worst buses. So where did the money actually get spent?
Contact the GPS Governing Board – Let Them Know if You Want to Pay a Tax Override
The Administration has asked for an override so Liberal Board members know they have to vote for it. No thinking required. Conservative Board members are undecided. More money can always be put to use, if there is real oversight to ensure it gets spent as the voters expect, but GPS voters have rejected two overrides. GPS has an overall A-rating with the AZ Dept. of Education, spending is down, transparency on creating the budget and spending has increased dramatically, and there has been a serious house cleaning in the administration. Is that enough for voters to support an override if the Board asks for it? Does the Board have some clear goals that could justify an override?
If you have an opinion it’s time to contact the Board members. The Board must decide the override question soon, probably June 10. You can reach them as a group at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can get individual emails for Board members on the GPS website: www.gilbertschools.net.