Passage of MUSD override a boon to district

Maricopa High School
The Maricopa Unified School District employees to get pay raises starting July 1 [File photo]

Passage of MUSD override a boon to district

The narrow – and for now, unofficial – passage of Proposition 457 will benefit students and the community for the next five years, according to district administrators and governing board members.

District Superintendent Dr. Tracey Lopeman expressed her thanks to the community for the passage.

“We are grateful for the support and confidence of our community,” Lopeman said. “This is an endorsement of the work our teachers and staff do every day.”

With the continuation of the override, which keeps in place a 10% override to the district’s annual maintenance and operations budget, the district will be able to keep in place about 70 teachers who have been added over the past five years. Those additions have helped the district lower class sizes and attract and retain teachers. It also will keep in place about $500,000 annually for technology in the classrooms and for RAM Academy, the district’s alternative high school. Those elements were crucial to the district maintaining the gains it has made over the past several years.

A special thank you goes to those who supported this effort with your vote, and those who gave their time and energy to inform voters of the critical importance of override funding,” Lopeman said. “Because of them, our students continue to benefit from low-class sizes, investments in technology, and the RAM Academy.” 

MUSD Governing Board member Robert Downey said the passage of the override has a broader reach than just the benefits it provides financially.

“All parents want their kids to do well in life, to do better than they did,” Downey said. “They want their kids to be taught that each one of them can reach the sky and go beyond. Thar a proper education is a critical component in making that dream a reality. By supporting the override, parents and the community are sending a message that they support MUSD and its goal to provide additional support for those kids who need it.

“I want to thank the Maricopa community for putting their support behind MUSD,” he added. “I do not take their support lightly.”

Governing board member Torri Anderson also had a message for the city’s voters.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart!” she said. “I am so excited for our students and staff and the incredibly bright future of our amazing city of Maricopa.”

The benefits provided by the initial override were made apparent over the past 18 months or so as COVID-19 wreaked havoc on schools.

Lopeman said if the district had not had the 1:1 ratio of technology the override funding provided, meaning every student and teacher having a laptop, “we would have been in really rough shape with the COVID outbreak. We would not have been able to conduct remote learning like we did with all our students.”

The override also has helped MUSD deal with booming growth as Maricopa’s population has soared over the past decade. Supporters said the override was crucial in keeping pace with that growth. Enrollment in MUSD’s nine schools has risen 21% in the past five years, from 6,184 to 7,639 students, and is projected at 9,441 in 2025-26, an increase of more than 50% in just 10 years.

The cost of the override funding is relatively low. Residents pay only about 38 cents per day to cover the cost of the override (per $100,000 of assessed value on their home), or about $11.40 per month.

Lopeman said smaller class sizes – even with the massive growth in student population – has been a primary benefit of the current override. Because of the additional teachers it was able to hire, the district’s average class size fell by about five students per class in grades K-5, and Lopeman said those numbers have multiple positive impacts.

“When you have class sizes that are low, that’s one way to attract and maintain quality teachers,” she said. “When we attract and maintain quality staff, the quality of our product continues to elevate. One of the biggest benefits to this is having class sizes that are enviable.”

MUSD is one of many districts in the area that have budget overrides. The Kyrene, Tempe Elementary, Tempe Union, and Chandler Unified districts all have 15% overrides, and the Casa Grande Elementary and Casa Grande Union High School districts are at 10%.

Downey said the result is good news for Maricopa now and in the future.

“It’s a great day for current MUSD students, future MUSD students and the community at large,” he said. “Although times are tough, this vote reflects those parents and grandparents who want a good education for their children and grandchildren.”

Results of the election will become official Nov. 12.