Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Ain't heard no fat lady singing yet, folks

The denizens of the lege were at it until around 7:30 a.m., making June 30, 2009 a 31 1/2 day (note: Mulder and Scully are flying in today to investigate the time dilation incident :) ).

And in spite of the all of the Republican posturing about their desire to pass a balanced budget (balanced on the backs of schools, the poor, and working families so that large corporations can have a huge tax cut), the Governor, even *if* she signs the budget, will have to call a special session of the lege.

They still need to balance the budget.

The lege played all sorts of games - holding their original budget until the last minute, passed June 4, in order to prevent an expected veto and force the Governor to sign their budget; negotiating a "compromise" with her, and then torpedoing their own compromise by refusing to vote it out of committee; killing any revenue-enhancing bills (even the odious sales tax hike), so that even when they passed the"compromise" on to the Governor, it was out of balance; even locking the doors of the Senate to keep the Governor's staff out and prevent the possible delivery of veto letters while they were still in session, forcing them to remain in session.

It was all to no avail, unless the motive behind all of the shenanigans was not to pass a balanced budget, but to ensure that Senate President Bob Burns could go on his previously-scheduled European Vacation.

Sooner or later, a special session will have to be called by the Governor in order to fix what the lege gave her. Not to make it "less draconian", just "less unbalanced."

And probably sooner than later, as school districts will be starting their academic years soon, some by the end of the month or early August.

Stay tuned.

For a summary of the provisions and a legislative session update, here's the text of an email update from the Arizona AFL-CIO (I am still too frazzled for much coherent thought and research right now) -
Budget Update - July 1 at 10:00 am

Session & Budget Update-

This morning The Legislative Session adjourned sine die at 7:30 am. This means they are finished with all bill deliberations unless and until the Governor calls a future special session. It is being reported she will do this soon. The budget bills passed on June 4 along with the trailer bills passed earlier this morning have all been transmitted to the Governor.

There has been no formal statement posted on the Governor's website at this point in time. Rumor has it that she will hold a press conference or issue a formal statement as of 10:00 there has been no formal word. Many are saying she will do an extensive line-item of the general appropriations bill and veto some of the budget reconciliation bills (BRBs) and associated trailer bills. This will make it necessary for a special session to be called at some point to pass a balanced FY10 budget. There is a lot of confusion as to what this all means. When the Governor sends out a statement we will pass this information along.

About a dozen state parks closed yesterday at 4:30 and since the budget had not passed as of midnight last night they asked campers to leave last night. It was reported they would not be open for the 4th of July Weekend. If you were planning on going camping at a state park you may confirm they are open.

It was just reported from the Capitol times that the Gov. Jan Brewer's office said it would make an announcement on whether the governor would sign or veto the budget bills transmitted to her this morning. If Brewer vetoes the bills it will lead to at least a partial shutdown of state government. The Arizona Department of Administration posted a notice on its Web site at 9:42 a.m. that the governor is reviewing the budget bills, and that all state employees should report to work as scheduled.

For the votes...The Democrats in both the House and Senate were firm "NO" votes in opposition to the entire budget. In addition to their votes, Republican Representatives Lucy Mason (LD 1), Doug Quelland (LD 10), and Senators Carolyn Allen (LD 8) and Ron Gould (LD 3) also opposed the K-12 budget bill. For the revenue (tax policy) bill, the Democrats opposed as did Republican Senators Jay Tibshraeny (LD 21) and Carolyn Allen. The AEA sincerely appreciates the legislators who took a stand and voted "no" on these budget bills. Following is a summery of the budget from Arizona Education Association


(Fiscal Year 2010: July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2010)

This is a summary of the bigger budget and policy items that passed the House and Senate on July 1, 2009. This is not a complete list of all the changes to education. The budget bills from June 4 along with the "trailer bills" will now be transmitted to the Governor.

TAXES (HB2644)

Permanent Repeal of the State Equalization Property Tax—aka the school tax

Permanently repeals the state equalization property tax. This is a loss of revenue to the state of approximately $250 million per year.

Reduction of Assessment Ratio for Business' Secondary Property Tax

Lowers the assessment ratio for secondary property taxes on businesses to 16% for all bonds and overrides approved after December 31, 2011. This will potentially make it harder for school districts, community colleges, counties, and cities/towns to pass bonds and overrides because there will be a property tax shift from business to homeowners.

Vehicle License Tax (VLT) used to offset basic state aid

Sweeps $22 million in VLT from cities and towns in FY10 to pay a portion of basic state aid for education.


Fails to actually fund the 2% inflation to school districts

Section 9 in HB2648 sets the base level for FY10 at $3,267.72 which gives school districts the full 2% inflation factor. However, in section 25, there is a notwithstanding clause which then removes the 2% inflation to the base and instead sets the base level at $3,201.89 for FY10. From a historical standpoint, here are the base funding levels for the past two fiscal years:

2007-08 school year (FY08): $3,226.88
2008-2009 school year (FY09): $3,291.42
2009-2010 school year (FY10): $3,201.89 (this is the actual base level amount per student that a school district will receive)

The $3,201.89 amount for FY10 results in an amount that includes the reduction of the $121 million in education funding cuts that were part of the FY09 budget fix passed on January 31, 2009. Unfortunately, the '09 cuts have become part of the permanent new baseline number for education.

Soft Capital Reduction

Cuts soft capital funding an additional $175 million on January 1, 2010. The general appropriation trailer bill (HB2643) restores this funding if sufficient excess revenues are available by December 2009. (Note, without the sales tax, there will be no additional revenue available for this restoration.)

School districts with fewer than 600 students will be impacted with only half of this reduction. Of the remaining statewide allocation of soft capital funds (approximately $23 million total), a district may use their local share for any operating expenses.

No Funding for Utility Costs

Fails to provide any funding for the new utility formula that was passed last session for "excess utilities" (this is an $80 million cut to school districts that previously levied for "excess utilities").

Teacher Performance Pay

Reduces the Career Ladder program funding by 0.5% for FY10 (from 5.5% to 5%) and limits this program only to teachers who participated in FY09 (the 2008-09 school year).

Reinstates the new but unfunded teacher performance pay program that was established last session (the " Gilbert School District " proposal to provide the additional Career Ladder funding to all school districts).

Overrides and Bonds

Extends the timeframe during which a school district can issue a bond from six years to ten years after obtaining voter approval (this is only for future bonds to be approved by voters).

Permits a school district to issue Class B bonds for furniture, equipment, and technology provided that the bonds mature within five fiscal years after the bonds are issued.

Raises the maximum budget increase a school district may request for a Maintenance and Operations (M&O) Override from 10% of the Revenue Control Limit (RCL) to 15% of the RCL.

Establishes a Special Program Override by expanding the scope of the K-3 Override to allow for a program to be designed for any or all of the K-12 students. Specifies that the maximum amount a school district may request for an M&O Override is 10% of the RCL if the school district also requests a Special Program Override.

Authorizes a school district, for FY10, to conduct an election in March 2010 and submit one of the following proposals to the voters of the district:A 15% M&O override that, if approved, replaces any previously authorized M&O and K-3 overrides.

An additional 5% M&O or Special Program override if the voters of the school district authorize a 10% M&O override at the November 2009 election.

A 17% M&O override for a common school district if an M&O and K-3 override are still in effect on this bill's effective date. The 17% override, if approved, replaces any previously approved M&O and K-3 overrides and continues for the number of years of the previously approved K-3 override.

Permits a school board to cancel an override election scheduled for November 2009 by August 1, 2009.

Policy Changes Targeted Against Teachers & Association Members (HB2648 & SB1187)

Prohibits school district employment contracts from including compensated days for professional association activities. (New language added to the bill states that this policy change "does not prohibit individual employees of school districts from taking compensated leave time for any personal purpose, any professional purpose or any other lawful purpose.")

Prohibits a school district from adopting policies that provide employment retention priority for teachers based on tenure or seniority.

Removes the current prohibition against school districts reducing the salary of a tenured teacher except under a general salary reduction applied equitably to all tenured teachers.

Removes the contract dates (between March 15 and May 15) in which districts are required to offer teaching contracts for tenured teachers. Thus, there will be no date in statute set for contracts and school districts will each set their own contract notification deadline.

Eliminates the May 15 statutory deadline for notice of salary reduction. Instead allows each school district to set its own salary reduction deadline for teachers.

Removes current statute that requires a school board to notify a provisional teacher of nonrenewal by April 15; thus, there will be no date in statute set for this notification.

Removes the current statutory requirement for a school district to give a preferred right of reappointment to a job for a teacher who has lost his/her job through the reduction in force (RIF) process if a job becomes available within three years of the RIF process.

Reduces the time frame for requesting a hearing on dismissal or long-term suspension from 30 days to 10 days.

Reduces the amount of a time a school district must allow a teacher to correct inadequate classroom performance from 85 instructional days to 60 instructional days after receiving notice.

More later after I recover from the last couple of days (and yes, I am in far better shape than most of our legislators; I could leave when it got to be too much. They were there for the duration.

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