Finance Facts Learning Series


  • How is the Cave Creek USD operating budget funded?

    All schools in Arizona operate on a fiscal year beginning on July 1 and ending on June 30. The Governing Board of the District must propose its budget on or before July 5 and adopt a budget before July 15.  The Maintenance & Operations (M&O) Fund budget is where most of the day-to-day expenditures of a school district take place.  Approximately 80% of the M&O budget is comprised of salary and benefits for employees.

    Although the format and formula computation of the M&O Fund is very structured, the process of determining how the monies are spent varies among school districts.  The State bases the M&O Budget on a number of formulas that are heavily dependent on student enrollment.  

    The District multiplies the number of students enrolled by a Base Level amount determined annually by the Legislature.  For the current year, that amount is $4,359.55.  The product of this number plus the amount allocated for Transportation becomes the Revenue Control Limit for the District.  Arizona law does not allow districts to overspend their budgets.  Although Cave Creek Unified does not have one,  A.R.S. §15-481 allows school districts to ask voters to increase their budgets by up to 15% to support or maintain additional programs through a M&O override. 

    The State determines funding for the Revenue Control Limit for each district based on what a tax rate generates in each district.  This system results in districts with high taxable property values per pupil paying a higher percentage of the total cost with local taxes and vice versa.  Because of its property wealth, Cave Creek is one of eight school districts in Maricopa County that fund its schools entirely from the tax base and receive no State Equalization.

    In August, the County School Superintendents’ offices transmit tax levy requirements for each district to the county finance departments who, in turn, inform the county Board of Supervisors of the necessary levy by fund for each district.  Primary (M&O and Capital) and secondary (bonds and overrides) tax levies are determined by apply tax rates against the net limited assessed valuation of the school district.

     What is a Bond Election?

    Education or general obligation (Class B) bonds are voter-approved funds used to purchase technology, school buses, school safety and security, athletic infrastructure, and school facilities improvements. Districts collect this money by taxing property owners on the assessed value of their properties.  Residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural properties all pay taxes. Tax-exempt properties include churches, nonprofits, and government buildings.

    Districts sell the bond to investors. Selling bonds are similar to a loan, much like a home equity line of credit, but for the school district.  A unified school district may only sell up to 10% of their existing secondary assessed value, including existing debt. 

    Districts must maintain their facilities and the School Facilities Board does not cover expenses for technology, athletic improvements, transportation, or several maintenance items on schools.   The District cannot pay salaries or benefits for district employees from bond funds.