Higley USD approves budget, special elections

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The Higley USD school board approved the proposed 2020 budget, which includes a pay raise for teachers, in addition to giving the green light for special elections to repurpose an existing bond and continue with a 15% maintenance and operation budget override at a special board meeting June 14.

All three items passed unanimously.

Chief Financial Officer Gary Holland proposed a maintenance and operations budget of nearly $82.14 million for the upcoming year. This is about a $5.3 million increase from the 2019 budget. Holland said the increase is to pay for salary increases and filling new positions in the school district.

Included in the budget is a 5% increase in the average salary of teachers employed in 2020. Teachers’ salaries in the district have increased by a total of 18% since 2018. Special education expenditures will also increase by $1.4 million.

A public hearing will be held June 26, followed by a vote on final approval of the budget.

The board also approved to adopt a resolution for a special bond repurpose election. Board President Kristina Reese said the purpose of this is not to seek a new bond, but to reallocate funds from the previous bond due to a change in priorities.

“We have some growing needs, and we have to meet those needs,” Reese said.

The bond, approved by voters for $70.5 million in 2013, allocated dollars toward the construction of two new schools, in addition to other needs. Reese said the cost to construct Bridges Elementary, which opened for the 2016-17 school year, was much higher than anticipated. There are not enough funds to construct another school; however, Reese said another school is no longer necessary.

Due to the nature of the bond, the district cannot reallocate that money without a vote from constituents. The district plans to repurpose the funds to pay for other construction and maintenance repairs, as well as renovations for district buildings.

Board member Jill Wilson emphasized if voters approved the bond repurposing, it would not result in a tax increase.

“I think it’s an important message we need to get out that there’s going to be no additional taxes for taxpayers,” Wilson said.

The board agreed to adopt a resolution for a continuation of the 15% maintenance and operations override budget, originally approved in November 2015. The override is in place for seven years but decreases in the sixth and seventh years. The resolution would reset the override for the seven-year time frame to start in fiscal year 2020-21.

President Reese said the resolution is important because it is the reason why the district has been able to give its teachers and administrators consistent raises. That resolution would also not result in an increase in taxes.

The board must submit arguments for each resolution by August 9 to appear on the ballot in November.

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