By Joshua Babb
At the City Council debate on Monday, July 25, I was asked whether or not I supported the MUSD budget override. I stated at that time I was undecided I had many important questions that were not answered at that point.
I asked for a meeting with the chairman of the Vote Yes Maricopa committee, Vince Manfredi, and Dr. Steve Chestnut, MUSD superintendent, to answer some of the questions that I had on the issue. Both graciously gave up their time to meet with me and answered several questions in follow-up messages. One of the most important dealt with accountability. The question is, “How will taxpayers be assured that override revenue will do what it’s intended to do?”
I asked this because once the override is approved taxpayers shouldn’t have to wait several years to know if they made the right decision. It is important to me to keep the community informed on how their tax dollars are being spent and if it was a good investment. I was assured that the district would look at putting together a forum of communication that will keep voters informed on MUSD performance.
My next concerns were targeted at the current budgeting and planning so an override would not be necessary in seven years. Dr. Chestnut talked about working with the state to get the funding the school needed. As you and I know, the state Legislature has a history of raiding the education piggy bank to address economic downturn or balance the budget. This needs to stop and voters need to address these issues by voting out any legislator who supports raiding school funding. The state is responsible for funding schools and if it’s properly done, local communities won’t have to tax themselves to make up for shortfalls.
I am now confident in supporting the override.
There are still a few things Maricopa residents need to ask the school board, on a continuing basis and I will take the lead in doing that. I will, as a citizen or councilmember, work with MUSD and the School Board to answer these very important questions:
* “What are you doing to turn around those sixteen or so school busses that are leaving Maricopa every day?” We have a shop-local campaign – maybe we need an “educate local” campaign to convince parents and students that they’re needed and wanted here in Maricopa. Every student that attends school in MUSD brings along revenue that is needed to fund our schools and help make overrides unnecessary.
* What is MUSD long term strategy to ensure we don’t need future overrides?
We need outside-of-the-box solutions to decrease spending and increase classroom education.
Maricopa needs to stand on its own. Economic development depends on having a great local school district. At present, we are outsourcing the education of our kids to the Kyrene and Tempe districts because they have more programs and better overall ratings.
I invite all residents that have any questions for me about my views on the override to contact me and I will gladly sit down and discuss my thoughts. I also welcome any discussion with the current School Board.
I approached this question like I will any issue that I am presented with as your councilmember. I will get the facts and vote from a position of being informed rather that what seems to be popular at the moment. I hope that each of you will vote the same way.
Joshua Babb is a Maricopa resident and a candidate for city council.