Small schools legislation<br>closer to governor’s desk<br>

PHOENIX — The news out of the state legislature in Phoenix continues to be encouraging for local proponents of small-schools status legislation.

House Bill 2183 and Senate Bill 1414 both cleared their respective rules committees last week.

SB1414 was scheduled to be read before the Senate Committee of the Whole early this week.

Dale Fitzner, Grand Canyon School superintendent, encourages local supporters, especially business-people, to contact legislators and the governor to give the bill one final push.

"We need to start looking to the governor," Fitzner said. "ATRA (Arizona Tax Researchers Association) has talked to her and they’ve already made their pitch, telling her the same things when they’ve been trying to kill it in the past. That’s speculation, but that’s been their kill-a-bill approach."

Fitzner said Hull has developed a reputation as an education governor, saying "I think we can make it work," but also adding that ATRA "could be successful with this, but I don’t think so."

Sam Polito, who was hired by the Grand Canyon Unified School District to lobby for the legislation, told Fitzner on Thursday that "we’ve got the votes."

That same day, Polito was trying to educate one Tucson legislator who objected to the small-schools bill. Fitzner said ATRA had probably gottten to that particular lawmaker, who did not sit on any of the committees where the two versions of the bill were heard.

Still, it was encouraging that there was just the one lone objection. Fitzner said there might be more, he had only talked with Polito and that doesn’t mean the issue won’t be debated on the floor.

Only one version of the bill will be heard before the full legislation and all indications point to Sen. John Verkamp’s SB1414 as the choice.

Polito told Fitzner that he’d rather see SB1414 be presented because of Verkamp’s involvement.

Verkamp did make an amendment to SB1414, which amounted to the rewording of one line in the bill concerning timeframes.

The legislative team fighting for passage hopes to see the bill go on the consent agenda.

Polito told Fitzner Thursday that the biggest way the public could help the bill would be for the business community to continue to be involved, as well as getting other affected school districts to contact legislators.

HB 2183 provides a phase-down formula for school districts that grow beyond the student count limits for the small school adjustment.

The small schools bills establish a formula that allows districts that grow over enrollment limits to continue to budget outside the revenue control limit for an unlimited period of time without holding an override election.

The formula phases the maximum limit above the revenue control limit that the district can budget for as the district grows. So, if the district’s high-school enrollment reaches 200, the adjustment is reduced to zero.

In addition, current law contains special override provisions to exceed a 10-percent limitation if the district’s student count is less than 154 for K-8 or 176 for 9-12.

Under HB2183 and SB1414, a unified school district’s override limit would be computed as the special override amount allowed for the grade levels that qualifies, plus the 10-percent limit for the grade levels that do not qualify for the special override.

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