GC VILLAGE — Imagine a high school with half the teachers, reduced educational options for students and concerns over accreditation.
Grand Canyon High School student Shaun Cochran gets into his locker a few weeks ago. Without passage of an override, the district could be faced with big budget problems for the high school.
That’s the very scenario which could develop in the near future if the Grand Canyon School District’s override request is not approved by voters on March 12. The high school budget would be in such disarray without the override that school board president Chuck Wahler could only describe the possibility as "gloom and doom."
"The vast majority of our budget is personnel, so that’s the only place we can look at trimming," Wahler said. "That’s the most significant place where we’d have to look."
Accreditation could also be an issue if the school would be forced to give up certain courses. If that did happen, students could still get a high school diploma but without the North Central Accreditation stamp of approval.
With the election date only a few weeks away, the school district does want the public to know about two key elements of the override.
First, they urge all voters to go to the polls either by early voting at the district office or by showing up at their designated spot on March 12.
"It’s critically important that people do vote," Wahler said. "Without passage of this override, we will not have the funding to operate the high school at any level of this year."
Second, school officials want the public to realize that passage of the override will not mean higher taxes for property owners.
According to the Coconino County Superintendent of Schools office, the fine print shows a secondary tax rate increase, but a primary tax rate decrease. The net result: No tax increase.
"As the secondary tax rate goes up, the primary tax rate will go down, so the tax rate remains about the same," school superintendent Ray Vernon said.
Wahler said the override requires the approval of voters for the school district to spend over the revenue control limit. Overall with the override, there would actually be no additional money for the school district and it would even be slightly less.
"We have to go to the voters to be able to spend money over the RCL where in the past, we were in the small-school window," Wahler said.
The high school surpassed the 100-student plateau last year and will likely be well over that figure next year after a small senior class graduates and a large eighth-grade class turns into freshmen.
Vernon said he was optimistic for the override’s chances of approval and said he appreciates the efforts of voters to keep the high school operating at a high level.
As Vernon and Wahler indicated, there will not be a tax increase to the few property owners in the district. Tusayan resident Pete Shearer, who worked hard on helping the small-schools legislation pass last year, addressed that issue in the county’s voter information.
"Taxes will remain the same as they are currently," Shearer wrote. "But our school will be able to continue to education our students once we go over the 100 exemption. Spending will be phased down through a formula. Once we reach 200 students, we no longer will need nor be entitled to this exemption."
There appears to be a lot of support for the override’s passage, but the school district needs voters to show up and cast their votes. There is the fear that if only 10 voters show up and they happen to be property owners who have been misinformed that their taxes will go up, it’s possible the override would fail.
"Without successful passage of this override election our school and community will suffer," Shearer wrote in an argument for passage.
For those unable to vote on March 12, early voting continues through March 7. Early voting is available Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. at the school district office.
For information, contact the Coconino County Elections Office at 1-800-793-6161 or 928-779-6589.
The school district is planning an open house for the community this coming Tuesday at 7 p.m., in the school’s multi-purpose room.
School officials urge locals to attend the open house to learn about the override issue.