MESA Bond and Override
Currently the Bond is passing and the Override is set to fail.
Bond – 50% Yes (717 Vote Difference)
Override – 51% No (2,636 Vote Difference)
There are still some outstanding ballots in Maricopa county. We don’t know exactly what cities they represent but we don’t have a final call for Mesa’s Bond and Override but I can’t say I’m too optimistic about both passing.
My personal take –
First I want to say thanks to everyone who knocked on doors, put up signs, made calls, texted their neighbors and friends, shared a post, handed out info, held a meeting, and joined in. I can’t express my thanks enough. It is a punch in the gut for sure that we came up short on the bond and override but the conversations you had with our community will have a longer lasting impact.
So, I know folks want the why, how, and what. I will do my best to explain my thoughts and understanding.
There are a host of things we can probably point to when it comes to why these didn’t pass. These are in no real order of impact. I think we had a perfect storm of stuff we can point to.
1. Mesa had 8 questions on the ballot (this includes the MPS bond and override). First four passed last four failed. The city asked for two bonds and two tax increase before any voter got to the bond and override for the school.
2. 14,000 less votes in school elections in Mesa compared to the last midterm (2014). There is probably more research I could do on this but vote totals for school board elections in 2014 were about 14,000 more than this year’s totals – there are still 500k ballots from Maricopa county floating around so this could switch things up.
3. Override was the term used on all materials but on ballot was called a budget increase (word override not used in the title of the question)
4. Mesa School District in the past had hosted dozens of info sessions on both the bond and override across the district at many of the 84 schools. This year they only held 6 at each comprehensive high school - which were also labeled as a meet the superintendent event and mainly pushed out by principals to their SIAC or PTO.
5. The last Override barely passed and it wasn’t a tax increase. This one was a tax increase.
6. There was a misunderstanding of what “raise” we got last year and how much money was put into education and whether or not we were just “asking for more” after a big “win.” If you’ve talked to non-educators this has come up a lot.
7. We had a school board candidate who actively campaigned to very conservative voters that the district was misspending money and that the district was not transparent. This candidate even spent the early part of their campaign speaking against the bond and override. This candidate got about 20,000 votes and I have to assume some of those voters who cast their ballot also voted no on the bond and override because their candidate told them Mesa wasn’t being fiscally conservative.
8. Candidates for the EVIT school board actively campaigned against the Bond and Override saying it would be used to “close EVIT”, which was an incredibly false and misleading claim.
9. REDforED could have caused some blow back as well. I won’t apologize for standing up for education in Arizona last spring. I won’t apologize for helping get the largest increase in education spending in a decade. But the truth is it got muddied and not everyone saw it the same way.
What it Means?
The district went out for the override a year early because they knew they were asking for an increase in taxes and wanted to have a second shot in case it didn’t pass. So, there will be no loss of current override funding for the next school budget year (2019-2020).
However, the district was hoping to use new funds in the 2019-2020 school year to cover the cost of increases to minimum wage and give some raises to classified workers to help be competitive with other districts and with other professions. This means that the 2019-2020 budget might need some tweaking to cover those increased costs. This of course really depends on what happens at the state level and if we see real investment in schools come out of the legislature in the 2019 legislative session starting in January.
If the Bond does not pass there will be no extra capital funding coming in to help repair and renovate schools, buy new buses, or replace or upgrade existing technology. You and I both know the state of some of our aging schools. This means there will be less immediate fixes and probably more band-aids until we can pass a bond in the future.
Districts Response After failure of the bond and override
An email was sent on 11/7/18 containing the following actions being taken by the district:
We are prioritizing expenditures for the remainder of the year. As this work is completed, our immediate cost-savings actions for the 2018-19 fiscal year are:
- Hiring freeze for all positions, except classroom teachers
- Hold on all capital projects and expenditures, including the remaining $29 million in 2012 bonds
Reductions in M&O spending for the 2019-20 fiscal year will be determined through priority-based budgeting that places student academic learning at the forefront all decisions. The amount of budget reduction required will be determined in the near future. As a point of reference, the additional 5 percent override would have provided $17 million needed to address the impact of the state-required increase of minimum wage.
For the Override and Bond.
If both do not pass, the district will need to decide if they are going to go out next year for another shot at 15% Override or if they are going to go back to 10% so there would be no increase in taxes. They will also need to decide if they are going to go out for the same bond amount or if they can go out for the same amount aiming to do the same things again. These decisions will need to be made this spring by the governing board. If next fall if it does not pass the district will lose 1/3 of the override funds for the 2020-2021 school year. That’s over $10 million dollars. They would lose another 1/3 each year if we are unable to pass it until its gone.
We do this all again but with more of us along for the ride. It will take a concentrated effort by educators across Mesa to help get out the word to pass the bond and override if both are on the ballot next year. I know that we set up sign pick-ups, neighborhood walks, we handed out materials at football games, stores, swim meets, and just about any place else we could. But we didn’t have enough people with us to have a larger impact. I know a core group of folks who called, e-mailed, texted, and had face to face conversations with their colleagues about getting them to help get the word out about the bond and override. As a district with over 3,000 certificated staff, I know not enough of us joined in. A good group of about 10-15 of us knocked on doors most weekends. Imagine how many folks we could have talked to if that number were 50 or 100 of us. Imagine the impact we could have if more folks had grabbed some signs and put them in their car windows while they were parked at work. Imagine the impact we could have had if some more folks had organized a meeting with their neighbors at their house to talk about the bond and override.
I know the effort I put in and I’ll always think I could have done more. So I’ll sit on that until next time. I’ve been told thank you and folks have let me know they appreciate me. Those are great to get but I hope next September and October you’ll walk with me, you’ll call with me, you’ll organize with me. It’s a sad state that we have to go out and beg our communities for what is thought of as extra funding when actually it is honestly necessary funding but that’s the boat we are in.
64,000 students in Mesa need us.
Joshua Buckley, MEA President
Bond and override informational meetings
The district will host six informational meetings to share facts about the bond and override. Superintendent Ember Conley will also speak about the district's vision, promise and goals. These 45-minute events will begin at 6 p.m in the auditorium.
Tuesday, Sept. 18, Mountain View High School, 2700 E. Brown Rd., Mesa, AZ 85213
Thursday, Sept. 20, Skyline High School, 845 S. Crismon Rd., Mesa, AZ 85208
Monday, Sept. 24, Red Mountain High School, 7301 E. Brown Rd., Mesa, AZ 85207
Thursday, Sept. 27, Mesa High School, 1630 E. Southern Ave., Mesa, AZ 85204
Tuesday, Oct. 2, Westwood High School, 945 W. Rio Salado Pkwy., Mesa, AZ 85201
Thursday, Oct. 4, Dobson High School, 1501 W. Guadalupe Rd., Mesa AZ 85202
Bond and Override Fact Sheets
How our last bond was spent in Mesa.
A good video on what bonds and overrides are and how they work.
This year Mesa Unified School District is going out to voters to renew and increase our budget override and also asking voters to approve a new bond. The passage of the bond and override are critical for the future of Mesa Public Schools.
The override will help continue to fund 8.7% of all Mesa Schools employees salaries as well as help the district with the increased costs of minimum wage and insuring that we can hire the best school staff both classified and certified to work with the students of Mesa. The bond will help us renovate school buildings (some over 40 years old), cover technology needs for students and educators, and help us replace buses (over 100 of which do not have air conditioning).
Below you will find info on when district informational meetings are taking place and fact sheets for the bond and override.