Tucson voters in the Sunnyside School District were on pace to reject a budget override that would have raised $9.3 million annually to fund services that affect students, including programs to improve student test scores, expanded internship opportunities and career training, after-school tutoring and enrichment programs.
Overrides for both Amphitheater and Flowing Wells school districts, however, were on track to pass, early results showed Tuesday night. Those overrides would fund a host of student programs, reduce class sizes and supplement employee salaries.
Overrides last for seven years and come from local property taxes to fund a wide range of needs. School districts say they need the additional funding due to steep cuts from the state over the last decade.
As of Tuesday evening, 53% of voters in the Sunnyside School District were voting against an override for Tucson's second largest school district.
Sunnyside asked voters for an override to provide funding for programs such as fine arts, library services, physical education, athletics, technology and professional development for staff to help improve student test scores.
"We're disappointed in the results," said spokeswoman Marisela Felix. "It's a big hit for our community."
Without that funding, the district will have to make some “very tough decisions that will impact staff, programs and class sizes,” Chief Financial Officer Hector Encinas told the Star two weeks before the election.
Tuesday’s election would mark the seventh Sunnyside override that voters have rejected since 2011.
The only other major district in the county that doesn’t get funding from a voter-approved levy increase is TUSD. Tucson Unified does, however, receive additional funding because of its 45-year-old desegregation case.
Declining enrollment and increasing minimum wage are a few factors that have increased Sunnyside’s expenses while they continue dealing with state cuts to education funding, Felix said.
In 2010, the district’s maintenance and operations budget was more than $93 million. This year it’s $89.4 million. Due to budget cuts and decreasing enrollment, next year’s maintenance and operations budget is projected at $83 million, according to Encinas.
The maintenance and operations fund primarily pays for salaries and benefits, which affect staffing levels, class sizes and student programs.
The override would have cost homeowners in the district with a home at an average assessed valuation of $80,960 an additional $169 on their property taxes.
Voters in the Amphitheater School District were set to approve a new override and continue an existing one, which voters have consecutively said yes to since 2005.
State cuts over the last decade have cost Amphitheater close to $120 million, making overrides an important funding source, according to the district.
Amphitheater’s new override, collecting support from 58% of voters Tuesday night, would generate an estimated $2.9 million annually to expand all-day kindergarten to every elementary and K-8 school in the district and will reduce class sizes in lower grades by five to eight students per classroom.
Homeowners of an average-priced home at $236,370 would pay about $43 annually.
The continuance, supported by 59% of voters in early results, would generate an estimated $7.9 million annually and allow the district to fund a number of services affecting students, including maintaining and further reducing class sizes, enhancing fine art and physical education programs in elementary schools, expanding electives and programs at the middle and high school levels, maintaining tutoring and academic intervention programs and supplementing employee salaries.
Continuing the current override wouldn’t change what homeowners in the district’s boundaries are paying in property taxes and will continue to cost about $118 annually to a homeowner with an average-priced home.
Voters in the Flowing Wells School District were voting in favor of continuing an override in place since 1997 by with a 56% yes vote.
This override would raise about $3.1 million annually for programs such as fine arts, physical education, all-day kindergarten and after-school athletics, as well as maintaining class sizes, teacher salaries and an initiative that prepares students for higher learning.
A homeowner with an average-priced home of $105,550, will continue to pay about $161 annually in property taxes.
“Flowing Wells has worked hard to build a community around the school district and we feel incredibly thankful for the continued support from the voters,” said Superintendent David Baker.