WTF are Bonds and Overrides?

As we mentioned in our previous article, the November 7th elections are exclusively to approve school district bonds and overrides. We explained that bonds and overrides are propositions that school districts bring to voters to support their funding. How? They ask us if it’s OK to take some of the taxes we pay on our houses, apartments and businesses to help out their schools. Sometimes, they also ask us if it’s OK that we pitch in new money for a couple of years for specific projects.

Basically in these local elections you are deciding if you want to contribute more to the public schools in your area.  If the school district in your area has a bond or override up for vote, you should have received a ballot in the mail and tomorrow is the last day to turn it in!

Schools in Arizona are severely underfunded so we recommend for people to vote in favor of their local bonds and overrides. However, aside from knowing that it’s a good idea to support public schools this way, it’s also important for us to be informed voters and understand what the crap bonds and overrides are.

It’s also important to understand that although it’s helpful for schools when we approve bonds and overrides, these initiatives are NOT the solution to Arizona’s school funding problem. The solution is for our state’s legislators to provide adequate funds for schools permanently so they don’t have to rely on asking tax payers to contribute every time bonds and overrides expire.

We will be providing more information about how we can advocate for a permanent solution to Arizona’s school funding issue in the near future. For now, here’s our shot at explaining bonds and overrides.

WTF is a bond?

A bond is like a loan taken out by the school district and paid back through the property taxes paid by the people that live in the district.

So our ballot for example says:

“Shall Phoenix Union High School District be allowed to issue and sell bonds in the principal amount not to exceed $269,000,000 to provide money to the following purposes:

– Constructing school buildings – Renovating school buildings – Acquiring school lots – Improving school grounds…”

By voting YES, we allow the district to take out loans in that total amount as needed. This doesn’t mean that they are automatically going to take out a 269 million-dollar loan. It means that they will take out those loans (issue the bonds) based on how much money they need to complete projects.

What projects do bonds fund?

Bonds fund projects that have a “life” longer than five years. These include building new schools, building improvements such as roof, lighting, etc., technology, school buses and equipment (among many other things).

Bonds DO NOT fund operation costs like teacher salaries or school supplies for example.

WTF is an override?

Overrides ask voters for permission to increase the district’s state-determined budget by a certain amount, and that amount depends on the type of override it is: Maintenance and operations override, special override or capital override.

School districts can ask for an increase of up to 15% of their budget for a maintenance and operation override, up to 5% for a special override and up to 10% for a capital override.

Overrides are approved for 7 years.

What do overrides fund?

Maintenance and operations overrides support things like teacher salaries and benefits, classroom supplies and other general operation costs.

Special overrides support specific programs like full-day kindergarten, art, music and others.

Capital overrides fund equipment, furniture, technology, buses, etc.

When you vote YES on an override, you are agreeing to a temporary tax increase on your property.

Why do bond and override approvals go to voters?

We have to approve bonds and overrides because by saying YES on your ballot, you are agreeing to temporary property tax increases.

With the additional property tax funds the districts will receive through the approval of the bonds and overrides, they are able to pay back the money obtained through bonds and they can increase their budget.

Why do we advocate for voting YES on bonds and overrides?

Adequately-funded schools are necessary for our communities to thrive. Arizona’s education system currently does not receive adequate funding to cover all the needs of our schools and this has become evident in many ways. One of them is the state’s teacher shortage. This shortage is in part because Arizona teachers are the worst paid across the country. We are 50th in the nation! For this reason many kids have substitute teachers for long periods of time and that’s not conducive to their learning.

If we vote YES on our districts’ bonds and overrides, we can help our schools get the funds necessary to operate appropriately and offer a good education. This is even more important for districts serving low-income students and kids of color, where residents sometimes vote less frequently, and bonds and overrides don’t always pass, making it even more challenging for students to get the services they need.