Facing a nearly $3 million reduction in budget this year, the Sunnyside Unified School District will ask voters for almost $12 million in help.

The governing board on Wednesday approved a resolution calling for an election for a 15 percent override in the district’s $79 million maintenance and operations budget.

“Heaven knows we need this,” said Eric Giffin, a board member. “We need this so bad, so at best, it’s going to be a very tenuous situation.”

With the state’s slashing of the education budget, the override has become necessary, board members said.

The district has attempted three times unsuccessfully in the recent past to get voters to approve an override. The board did not attempt one in 2014.

Those failures led to cutting of teachers and staff, increasing class sizes, shifting funds to support critical functions of the district, and relying on temporary funding to maintain some programs.

If approved, the $12 million, which would come out to be about $200 per year for the average homeowner in the district, would be used to fund the Ocotillo Learning Center, school counselors, middle and high school athletics, maintain physical education programs and ensure salary equity, among other things.

The district can cut here and there, but cuts are one-time actions, said Eugenia Favela, acting superintendent of Sunnyside. The override is critical to sustaining salaries and programs, she added.

With the $2.7 million budget reduction, Sunnyside has already cut various positions and programs, including eliminating substitute nurses, the fashion design program at Desert View High School, a probation officer and security officers at schools.

Amid the cuts, the classroom site fund increased from $7.2 million last year to $9.3 million this year.

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Some of that classroom site fund will go to increasing pay for support staff who were being underpaid compared to market value, which the board also approved Wednesday.

Nearly $700,000 will be spent to increase pay for about 360 employees across the district in nonteaching roles. Most of them are support staff, including crossing guards, child-care workers, custodians, computer clerks and school van drivers.

A compensation and classification study was conducted by staff and outside consultants. It asked other districts and other public agencies in the Tucson and Phoenix area how much they were paying certain workers.

The findings showed that 58 percent of the pay ranges at Sunnyside are behind the market by 5 percent or more.

The $700,000 isn’t going to cover everybody, said Hector Encinas, the district’s chief financial officer. “At least it’s a start,” he said.

Eventually, the district would move to adjust salary for workers who were not included this time around.

Contact reporter Yoohyun Jung at 520-573-4243 or yjung@tucson.com. On Twitter: @yoohyun_jung

Data reporter

Data reporter on the investigative team for the Arizona Daily Star