Wilson Elementary School District No. 7 of Maricopa County v. Superior Court In and For County of Maricopa

762 P. 2d 626, 158 Arizona 339 (1988)

Facts: The Wilson Elementary School District wanted to call for a second override election due to a poor voter turn out (only 36 of the district's 850 eligible electors participated). The school board under its ministerial powers asked the superintendent to hold the second override election. The superintendent refused saying that according to an Attorney General Opinion second override elections are illegal. The school board stated that the function of the superintendent is purely ministerial and the statute affecting override elections concerns "More than one" election affecting a school budget year.

Issue: Can a school call more than one override election affecting a school year budget.

Decision: A school district having lost or won an override election cannot have a school budget submitted to voters a second time. Relief requested by the district is denied.

Reasoning:

(1) The superintendent is not compelled to hold an override election because no such authority exists on behalf of the school board to call for a second override. The board cannot compel the superintendent to perform an illegal act, even if the act is ministerial.
(2) A second election cannot be called for because the board failed to convince the voters of the need of a budget increase.
(3) The statute pertaining to the authorization of one or more elections uses the language either/or which denotes the choice of one alternative to another. The statute implicates that to hold more than one override election per year would be unethical.

Significance: The decision of the Court of Appeals of Arizona holds that in the area of statutory legislation, the idea behind the law was to provide voters with a choice between competing school budgets for the school year. Clearly the voters are to decide for or against a proposed budget. If the budget is defeated, the voters have in essence approved the adoption of an alternative budget that is within the confines of the existing budget. Allowing the district to present a proposed budget a second time disapproves the voters essential adoption of an alternative budget and is contrary to the "statutory scheme" for adopting school year budgets.

Note:
(1) This was a unanimous opinion.
(2) Circumstances are not present in this case affecting statutes which contemplate holding additional elections when the previous election affected more than one budget year.

From The Law and American Education

Summary of School Law Decided by US Court of Appeals:Part 2

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