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  • Ben Cooper

CUSD Board Candidate Seems Naive on Budget

Kurt Rohrs seemed surprised to learn that CUSD80 does not return excess from the 15% budget override money to taxpayers. Rohrs had strongly opposed efforts by parents and taxpayers to defeat the override in November 2021.

The comments shown in the image above an below come from a public social media page and from our own website.

In the citizens budget meeting of the Chandler Unified School District (CUSD80) on 1 Feb 2022, Mr. Rohrs, a long-time financial advisor with multiple academic degrees, appeared surprised to learn that the Chandler Unified School District keeps all of the 15% budget override money approved by voters in November 2021, even if it does not need it at the moment. He currently seems to argue that these unused funds should instead be returned to taxpayers.

To many parents and taxpayers this is an odd position because Mr Rohrs vehemently opposed their grassroots effort to defeat the budget override in the first place, in November 2021. He is on record accusing those parents of wanting to "defund the district" and comparing them to the "Mafia". Mr Rohrs denies this. Parents opposing the override had cited many reasons, including the school closures during Covid, the sinking quality of schools and the number and generous salaries of CUSD80 administrators who got raises even as schools were closed. Many parents saw the anti-override effort as their only chance to exert control over the budget. Given that CUSD80 does indeed take all of the approved 15% budget override, even if it doesn't need it, parents who had asked "Why do they need another override?" seem to have been largely correct.

Arguing against the parents' budget discipline efforts, Mr Rohrs said in November 2021 that the citizens budget meetings are where the "real work is done". Yet, in the most recent governing board meeting of CUSD80 on 26 January 2022, Mr Rohrs bemoaned that the part of the budget actually discussed at those citizens budget meetings represents only a very small share, 6%, of the overall CUSD80 budget.

Mr Rohrs failed to mention that the citizens budget meetings are not actually very much about citizens' input into the budget, but rather information sessions, where CUSD80 Chief Financial Officer Lana Berry explains the budget to citizens sitting in front of her in a setting akin to a classroom.

The budget override was passed by voters in November 2021, but as a result of the parents' last ditch grass-roots effort against the override, the election was very close with 55% or 23,769 voters for and 45% or 18,877 voters against the override. In previous years, and in other districts at the same time, such measures typically pass(ed) with 65:35% margins. The district itself employs 5,000, the City of Chandler around 1,500 people. It is fair to assume that the majority of those people, and possibly their family members, vote for budget increases on a regular basis. Due to the inherent interest of voters who work for the government, anti-budget increase efforts are always very difficult to bring to a successful conclusion, especially when they are being put on the ballot in off years with low overall voter turn out.

The video below is one of several produced by parents and taxpayers against the override. Former school board candidate Nicole Eidson appears in the video. Below this video is a record of Kurt Rohrs speaking at the CUSD80 governing board meeting on 26 January 2022.



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