Scandal Taints Gilbert Override Election

In their zeal to raise your taxes, proponents of the Gilbert override failed to comply with the law. The election itself is illegal and unneccesary. Undeterred, supporters of the tax increase are pulling out all the stops to win, going so far as to engage in illegal campaign activities using public resources. That's right. The pro-tax campaign is using your money to swindle you into giving them more money that the budget shows isn't even needed.

Thankfully, Gilbert Public Schools board member, Julie Smith is fighting to protect our schools and your pocketbook. She has filed multiple complaints with the Arizona Attorney General's office so that he will uphold the law. So far, no action has been taken. AG Mark Brnovich has essentially told Gilbert that it's up to the voters and the governing board. Superintendent Kishimoto and her allies can get away with violating the law unless the school board and the voters hold them accountable.

You can hold the Gilbert School Board and Superintendent Kishimoto accountable for this attempted back door tax increase by voting "no!" on the override.

Overrides are only legitimate if they are called in accordance with Arizona law. Each district has an aggregate budget limit and sets their budget with reference to this limit. If the budget overruns this amount, then there is a shortfall of funds. The purpose of the override is to handle these sorts of cases. When there's not enough money in the till, ask the voters if they are willing to pay more. Otherwise, the lower, alternate budget goes into effect and the checkbook remains balanced. In this case, Gilbert Public Schools does have enough in the till, but an override election was called anyway to see if the voters were willing to pony up for an imaginary shortfall.

Julie Smith is fighting this override, not just because she is incensed by the shady manner in which it was called. When she was elected, she argued for putting more dollars into the classrooms. When I spoke to her, she was concerned that this override money would be siphoned off to pay for things that do not directly improve the educational experience. This is truly a tax increase for the sake of a tax increase.

That hasn't dulled the enthusiasm of the Override's supporters. The yes campaign's kickoff was a "Stuff the Bus" event. Gilbert residents were invited to come stuff a school bus with school supplies. The implication is clear. Despite having enough in the budget for expenses, the Yes men want you to believe that there are not enough pencils, crayons and reams of paper for Gilbert's students.

Not only was this event dishonest and psychologically manipulative -- it was illegal as well. Another complaint by Julie Smith documents that the school bus was being provided free by the school district for a clearly political purpose. Superintendent Kishimoto asserts that the gas involved cost less than a dollar and that the bus driver's time was worth roughly $50. But what does a bus rental usually cost? Could you or I rent a school bus for a political event for $51? Such a deep discount seems to me like an in-kind contribution to the Yes campaign.

Even if we accept Kishimoto's laughable valuation of $51, since when is $51 of illegally used funds acceptable? The problem is not the amount. The problem is that the law was violated. That is why other "free" resources, such as the GPS Facebook page and Twitter accounts should not have been used to promote the tax increase. And yet, they were.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich has tried dodging these prickly legal questions. His office went so far as to assert that they had not received several certified letters from Julie Smith that drew his attention to these legal violations. To the extent that he has responded, he has basically said that the school board needs to hold Kishimoto accountable. It is true that the school board has the authority to punish Kishimoto in this case. Of course, the board members who voted for this illegal tax increase are not about to throw Kishimoto under the school bus that she illegally used to promote the tax increase.

That leaves you, the voters as the last line of defense. If Superintendent Kishimoto and her backers on the Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board are able to get away with these shenanigans, then they will try again and again. The Attorney General will not have your back. You can vote out the miscreants the next time that they are up for election, but by then the money will already have left your pockets.

Vote no on the override if you care about the integrity of the process.


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