Locals go to polls<br>for override vote

GC VILLAGE — The future of Grand Canyon High School will be on the line this coming Tuesday when local voters head to the polls to either approve or deny a budget override.

A favorable vote will allow the school district to exceed the state’s revenue control limit and continue to operate the high school at an acceptable level. A no vote for the override will force the school district to make drastic budget cuts if the enrollment on the 100th day of this school year surpasses 100 students.

Chuck Wahler, school board president, said he’s been encouraged by reaction from the community on the override issue.

"At least the people I’ve been talking to clearly understand that this is not new additional money to the school but comes close to maintaining the budget for this year, and no net increase to local (property) taxes," Wahler said. "Those are the two most important messages we need to communicate."

Tom Pittenger, school board member, agreed that things looked favorable.

"We’ve always enjoyed the support of our community and we sure hope they will this time as well," Pittenger said. "Most of the people here in the park and Tusayan are not taxpayers. Most are unaffected but the school could be strongly affected."

Even for those who do own property, the overall tax rate will not go up. School superintendent Ray Vernon said the secondary property tax rate will go up, but the primary rate will go down. Therefore, there will be no net increase.

The 100th day for the district falls on the same day as the election, March 12. It’s unclear if students who live in the Williams Unified School District but attend classes at Grand Canyon through an intergovernmental agreement will be included in the count. So it’s unknown if the override will even be needed for the 2002-03 budget.

Wahler planned to meet with Vernon on that issue.

"The question that’s still unresolved is the tuition transfer for Williams kids," Wahler said. "Clearly, there are enough kids from Williams that if we’re allowed to pull them out of the count, we’ll be under."

If approved, the override could be invoked within the next five years. Even if the counts are adjusted to not include the Williams School District students and Grand Canyon remains in the small-school funding window, then the approval to override the RCL would not disappear until 2007.

Wahler said Grand Canyon will definitely go over the 100-student mark next year. In 2002-03, the high school will replace a small graduating senior class with a huge incoming freshmen class for a net increase of about 30 students. Therefore, the 2003-04 budget would be impacted.

"Even if we don’t need it for the 2002-03 budget, we’ll need it within the next two years," Wahler said. "At best, we’ll have one more year at the small-school level."

School officials hope there will be plenty of locals going to the polls on Tuesday. At the end of last week, 13 locals had utilized early voting at the district office.

The district planned to get the word out this week with various public appearances, including an open house and meetings with the Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce and service clubs.

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