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Miami schools seek renewal of override

When voters in the Miami Unified School District mail in their ballots for November’s upcoming election, they will have the opportunity to renew an initiative that brings a significant amount of money to help pay for maintenance and operations for Miami schools.

The initiative, known as an “override,” is a small tax that runs on seven-year cycles and must be renewed, ideally every five years, according to school officials. Years six and seven see reductions in the roughly $600,000 brought in annually to fund programs including art, music, physical education, all-day Kindergarten, technology and to help maintain manageable classroom sizes.

Administrators are hopeful the community will continue to support the district through the override that has been in place for as long as anyone can remember.

“It’s all about support for academics,” says MUSD Superintendent Sherry Dorathy. “This is so important for the kids and for reducing class sizes.”

Overrides are used to provide funding in addition to per student monies provided by the state. The additional income supports education in the classroom, including teaching, learning and school operations. There are three types of overrides: maintenance and operations (M&O); a special override and a capital override.

Special overrides are for specific programs and capital overrides provide funding for equipment and technology.

The MUSD override is M&O and supports teacher salaries, benefits, supplies and general operations. 

Districts may ask for an increase of up to 15% of their budget for an M&O override, but MUSD is asking for 10%, which will not affect the amount residents will pay,[ unless their home is worth more than $100,000.]

NOTE: the information above as reported in the October 9 paper is incorrect.

It should read: The only time the tax rate will increase is if the value of the home increases.

For an average homeowner, the cost will continue to be about $4 per month, or $51 annually.

“The taxes won’t change unless the value of homes changes,” Dorathy says. “We’re not out to gouge or hurt people.”

Overrides are approved for a term of seven years, and are usually renewed in year four or five in order to maintain a consistent level of funding. If it is not renewed, the amount decreases by one-third in the sixth year and two-thirds in year seven.

The vote is open to all registered voters within the MUSD boundary, and the district will provide residents with the paperwork to register to vote. All they have to do is bring in proof of residence. 

Informational ballots are available Oct. 1 with the last day for voter registration Oct. 7.

The vote is all mail-in and the last day to request a ballot is Oct. 25 for the Nov. 5 election.

Dorathy, who has been superintendent of the district for seven years, and says the override has been in place so long, no one is really sure when it began, but voters have continued to support the school district whenever it is on the ballot.

“We’ve had the override for many years and it’s very important we keep it the same,” she says. “We write many grants and try to get revenue wherever we can, but the override brings in about $600,000 and I don’t know how we would replace it if it is not renewed.” 

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