Bonds & Overrides
Bonds and overrides are voter-approved initiatives that generate additional tax revenue to fund projects and operations for local school districts and community colleges. Bonds and overrides are tools that a local community can use to provide funds for their local schools and colleges above and beyond what the state provide.
Why are Bonds and Overrides Important?
Bonds and overrides provide local funding for schools and community colleges. Over the past few years, our schools and colleges have weathered significant state funding cuts. Meanwhile, Arizona’s teachers and students have been asked to meet higher expectations and do more with less. We can’t expect our schools to provide a world-class education without the resources to do so.
What is a bond?
With voter approval, public school districts or community colleges may issue bonds (which are purchased by investors) to fund projects that have a useful life longer than five years. Examples include building new schools, building improvements (HVAC, roof, and lighting), technology, school buses or equipment, to name a few. Bonds are repaid over a set period of time.
What is an override?
Overrides are used to provide additional funding to support what happens inside school or community college classrooms (teaching, learning and operations). There are three types of overrides. A maintenance and operations override (M&O) supports things such as teacher salaries, benefits, supplies and general operations. A special override supports specific programs, such as full-day kindergarten, art, music, physical education, etc. And finally, a capital override funds equipment, furniture, technology, vehicles, etc.
School districts may ask for an increase of up to 15% of their budget for their M&O override, up to 5% for a special override and up to 10% for a capital override (M&O and special overrides combined cannot equal more than 15%). Overrides are approved for a term of 7 years. Many school districts will ask voters to approve a renewal in year 4 or 5 of an override to maintain a consistent level of funding. If not renewed, the amount decreases by 1/3 in the 6th year and 2/3 in the 7th year.
So how do bonds and overrides come to be?
School boards or college governing boards call for an election and a local stakeholder committee is formed. Often these groups are called political action committees (PACs), but they can also be just a group of volunteers who come together to support the election. Schools and colleges can provide limited factual information about the bond or override and are not allowed to influence the outcome of the election. The stakeholder committee gets the word out and builds support for the election.
What Should I Look For On My Ballot?
Override ballot language: “budget increase, yes” or “budget increase, no.” While it says “increase” it actually may be a continuation from a previous override, and not an actual increase on your tax bill.
Bond ballot language: “bond approval, yes” and “bond approval, no.”
I’m Only One Person, Why Does My Vote Matter?
Every vote counts! In November 2018, 65% of registered voters participated in the midterm election. Turnout for special elections is generally much lower. Meanwhile, over the last severaI years, dozens of bond and override elections across the state passed or failed by less than a few hundred votes and some by less than 10 votes.
Arizona’s Citizens Clean Elections Commission Video
This webinar recording from September 2020 explores the nuts and bolts of school district bonds and overrides – what they are, how they are developed, who campaigns for them, how the campaigns are funded, and more.
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