- Scottsdale Unified School District
- For the Record
Aggregate Expenditure LimitPosted by SUSD Communications on 12/1/2022
Scottsdale Unified School District is Scottsdale’s fifth largest employer. It is a major economic driver, in addition to being a high-achieving public school district. However, if the Arizona Legislature does not act soon to rectify the archaic Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL), both the local and state economy stand to take a massive hit.
The AEL is a constitutional provision from 1980 that caps how much a school district can spend each fiscal year. It uses an outdated formula that is based on attendance and inflation rates. This year, the Legislature passed a bipartisan K-12 education budget, including a significant increase of nearly $800 million to public schools. Even so, Arizona ranks 47th in the nation for education funding and, according to the Arizona Department of Education, K-12 public schools across the state will have to cut their current spending by $1.38 billion this spring unless swift legislative action is taken to override the AEL. Keep in mind, these are the funds that cover the daily operation of Arizona’s public schools. The state has the money. The Legislature has already appropriated the money, yet schools cannot spend those dollars unless two-thirds of the House and Senate vote to override the AEL. This has been done in the past and is expressly permitted by the state Constitution.
According to numerous reports, as part of last summer’s state budget negotiations, Governor Doug Ducey indicated he would call a special session to address the AEL after the mid-term elections. There are a limited number of days remaining in 2022 for the Governor to honor his commitment. In the meantime, districts statewide consider the very real threat of having to reduce their budgets by 17.51%. For Scottsdale Unified, that equates to $30,196,497. That represents 45 school days in staffing costs. The impact would be real and would have a chilling effect on the district’s ability to attract and retain quality teachers and staff, and continue to deliver world-class, future-focused learning to our 22,000 students.
The legislature has until February 28 to override the AEL and fix this threat to funding for the current school year. Given the number of new legislators who will take office in January and the fact that they were not part of the budget approval process earlier this year, the hope is that Gov. Ducey will yet call a special session to address this unfinished business with the same legislature that approved the funding.
This is not the first time this has happened. A nearly identical scenario played out last spring.
Because a two-thirds majority vote of both chambers is required to waive the limit, bipartisan support will be essential again. Arizona lawmakers need to work together to rectify this year’s funding cliff and craft a permanent solution that avoids the annual need for such legislative action.