GUHSD superintendent, CFO explain override

By: 
CAROLYN DRYER, Editor

Lou Wiegand, Glendale Union High School District chief financial officer

Appearing before members of Glendale Rotary Club, and before he and the district chief of financial operations (CFO) began explaining why there is a $9.3 million maintenance and operation budget override on the Nov. 6 ballot, Glendale Union High School District Superintendent Brian Capistran gave some background history about the district itself.

Established in 1911, GUHSD has nine Title I high schools. He said 40 percent of students throughout the district receive free or reduced lunches. The district has an online learning academy; Northern Academy for students with emotional disabilities; and Next STEP for academically low functioning students that provides a vocational academy to help with daily living skills. GUHSD enrollment is at 16,200 districtwide and the district employs more than 2,000 employees.

Capistran said the district has proven its academic and extracurricular excellence and has never lowered expectations; it is fiscally responsible; continues to improve; and enjoys the community involvement.

Over the years, GUHSD has appeared in U.S. News & World Report on best high schools in the U.S. It was selected National District of the Year by College Board in 2013. Capistran said GUHSD was No. 1 in Arizona for having the highest percentage of A-rated schools.

GUHSD CFO Lou Wiegand said the district has been recognized by national organizations Government Financial Officers Association (GFOA) and Association of School Business Officials (ASBO) the past 28 years for its outstanding financial reporting.

“We’re very conservative when we ask for money,” Wiegand said.

According to the Arizona Auditor General’s school district report for fiscal year 2017, GUHSD spent 57.3 percent of its budget in the classroom, compared to 53.15 percent spent by schools in a peer group and 53.8 percent representing the state average of dollars spent in the classroom.

In another Auditor General report, GUHSD has the lowest percent of its budget (7.6) spent on administration, compared to 10.1 percent spent by a peer group and 10.4 percent representing the state average.

Wiegand said, “One thing to note, Arizona does a very good analysis compared to other states. The state is not a high-dollar state for administration.”

Wiegand then showed a PowerPoint explanation for overrides.

Key override basics

Maintenance and Operation (M&O) budget — Where most of the day-to-day expenditures take place. Includes salaries, employee benefits, supplies, utilities, special education, maintenance, athletics and transportation.

Maintenance and Operation override — Allows a district to increase its budget above statutory formulas to improve programs if the voters approve by an election.

Good for seven years (phased out in years six and seven). Normally, districts seek renewal in the fourth or fifth year.

Wiegand said GUHSD’s M&O budget is the largest pool of money the district has and 60 percent of those expenditures are mainly salaries and benefits. He said the M&O override allows the district to exceed its M&O budget by a state formula with permission of the voters. He said that could be up to 15 percent of the M&O budget, but GUHSD is asking for 10 percent.

“Every five years, the district must go to voters,” Wiegand said. “We’re at a point where we’re asking taxpayers to continue the override since 1990. Six times, our community has said yes, renewed the override.”

Wiegand said almost all school districts operate on overrides. The GUHSD annual cost to taxpayers is $64.47 annually based on an occupied residence with an assessed value of $105,000.

If the override does not pass, Wiegand said the district would have to cut $9.3 million from its budget. An override loss at the polls would be greater than a state increase in funding, he said. In his presentation, Wiegand told Rotary Club members Sept. 27 that Arizona still ranks low in student funding compared to other states. Arizona’s annual per-student spending is $7,613 — behind Mississippi and Oklahoma. New York taxpayers pay $22,366 per student per year, Alaska pays $17,510, and the national average is $11,762.

Although funding may be smaller than other districts, Capistran boasted about GUHSD’s accomplishments: 1.4 percent drop-out rate; 93.5 percent graduation rate; $78.5 million in scholarships this past year; college credits earned by students at 7,866; students attending college after graduation at 82 percent; students involved in extra curricular activities at 81 percent; and student volunteer hours total 86,393.

One former GUHSD Governing Board president, Ian Hugh, remarked after the presentation the district does not charge students any fees to participate in extracurricular activities, plus the district pays for all AP exams taken by students.

The Glendale Star

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Glendale, AZ 85301-2436
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Peoria Times
7122 N. 59th Ave
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