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Mesa School District Reevaluates Budget After Bond Passes, Override Fails

Mesa High School.
Chad Snow/KJZZ
Mesa High School.

In an unusual event, residents in the Mesa Unified School District decided to pass a bond but rejected a budget override.

The $300 million bond will fund building repairs, school buses and technology upgrades.

The state’s largest district also asked voters for a 15 percent budget override to help compensate for the state’s new minimum wage. That just barely failed.

Mesa Assistant Superintendent Scott Thompson said while the bond will be a huge help with capital needs, the budget will need adjusting to keep wages competitive.

“We’re kind of having to rethink our entire budgeting process at this point and where we’re at and how we’re going to move forward,” Thompson said.

Thompson said the 10 percent override passed several years ago, but the 15 percent measure on the ballot this year would have gone straight to classified staff.

"We're trying to be competitive and we're looking at the surrounding districts and that additional 15 percent is making a difference for them," Thompson said. "We need that additional amount to compete as well."

There are more than 80 schools within the Mesa District.

Thompson said there will be an immediate hiring freeze on non-teacher positions, except bus drivers. He said the district is in critical need of bus drivers.

Casey Kuhn reports from KJZZ’s West Valley Bureau. She comes to Phoenix from the Midwest, where she graduated from Indiana University with a degree in journalism.Kuhn got her start in radio reporting in college at the community public radio station, WFHB. She volunteered there as a reporter and worked her way up to host the half-hour, daily news show. After graduating, she became a multimedia reporter at Bloomington's NPR/PBS station WFIU/WTIU, where she reported for and produced a weekly statewide news television show.Since moving to the Southwest, she’s discovered a passion for reporting on rural issues, agriculture and the diverse people who make up her community.Kuhn was born and raised in Cincinnati, where her parents instilled in her a love of baseball, dogs and good German beer. You’ll most likely find her around the Valley with a glass of prosecco in one hand and a graphic novel in the other.She finds the most compelling stories come from KJZZ’s listeners.