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Wed, Dec. 11

<b>Home Rule, school<br>budget override benefit community <br></b>

Although the Williams-Grand Canyon News has a long-standing policy of not supporting political candidates, our editorial team has endorsed both the Home Rule option and Williams Unified School District's budget override. Both are up for vote in Tuesday’s local election.

Basically, Home Rule allows local elected officials to set the city’s annual budget. Without this measure the state would mandate the total amount the city can spend.

Out of 71 cities and towns statewide, 57 currently operate under the Home Rule option. Voter approval is required for Home Rule every four years.

Joe Duffy, assistant city manager/finance director, said the state imposed expenditure limitation for municipalities is based on revenues during the 1979-80 fiscal year (FY) and can only be raised based on increases in inflation and population growth.

For example, under the state expenditure limitation, the maximum the city would be allowed to spend in FY 2002-03 would be $9,982,074, but Duffy estimates the city will need a budget of $15,722,389 next year to maintain existing services.

Without Home Rule option in place city officials say they would be forced to reduce budget expenditures by approximately $5,700,000. As a result, Williams City Council will have to determine the specific programs and services the city will cut back or eliminate, but the community’s health, safety and welfare would be a primary concern.

He pointed out the city provides many more services than it did in 1980, listing the electric system, the golf course, the rec center, the skate park and pool as some of the additions.

“Without Home Rule in place, nonessential services like recreation, the library and the senior center would be impacted,” Duffy said. “Basically, we would have to go through and start eliminating anything that isn’t required to maintain public health and safety.”

The Williams Unified School District is asking voters to allow it to extend the full funding of the school budget override, which initially passed in March of 1999. By design the override was fully funded for three years and will be reduced this year to 2/3 funding and then to 1/3 funding for 2003 and eliminated in 2004. By voter approval at the override election Tuesday, the district will maintain full funding through July 2005.

If approved, the tax rate necessary to support the override will not increase but remain at the current rate of about $.48 on the secondary property tax. One third of that rate is $.16, which means that a homeowner with property valued at $100,000 will see a reduction in annual taxes of about $16 if the election is not supported.

Programs and positions funded by the override include district-wide athletics, the school music program, the school art program, instructional supplies and materials, the school nurse, K-8 physical education programs and instructional technology improvements. With override funds in place, the district also added a full-time art teacher, implemented a Spanish program at WEMS, purchased new and used band equipment, hired a full time counselor, hired an assistant principal for WEMS and purchased new equipment for both schools.

Too much is at stake for both our citizens and our children if Home Rule and the budget override are voted down. The News urges voters to approve both measures.

Also seven worthy candidates are counting on your vote Tuesday. Make sure you get to the polls.

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