PUSD bond, override pass by 2-to-1 margins
PRESCOTT - Voters approved all four of Prescott Unified School District's ballot measures by wide margins in preliminary election results Tuesday evening, Nov. 3.
The district's $15 million, 14-year general obligation bond passed with 68 percent approval, and the accompanying seven-year, $6 million override passed with nearly 63 percent.
Two separate questions allowing the district to sell or lease the former Miller Valley and Washington schools both passed, by 81 percent and 70 percent respectively.
Related: PUSD election results, by the numbers
"It's bigger than the bond and override," Superintendent Joe Howard said after hearing the bond and override measures passed roughly 2-to-1. "It means the community is beginning to understand the role of public schools."
Governing Board President Maureen Erickson called the results "amazing."
"It tells me seniors and my age group came out and supported it because we understand the need for quality schools," she said.
She commended civic leaders and school administrators for supporting the bond and override, and advocating for passage at the ballot box.
"What's encouraging is the champions of education that we have in our community," Erickson said. "They have worked tirelessly, which tells me they embrace our schools, and they want them to be our community schools. We as board members are going to do our best to stay connected to the community and to get their input."
Krista Carman, co-chairwoman of the Yes Yes for Prescott Education political committee that supported the bond and override proposals, said she was overwhelmed by the results.
"My faith in Prescott is completely renewed," she said. "I moved here because I believed we were a community that was really everybody's hometown. And I believe that again."
Howard noted that PUSD isn't completely out of the woods, as declining enrollment continues to mean reductions in state funds.
He said the success of the bond and override combined with new funds for schools after the state Legislature's special session last week will help ease the strain on PUSD's budget.
"I feel like it's doable," he said. "I feel like it's fair."
Joe Pendergast, president of Citizens Tax Committee, one of the groups that opposed the bond and override, said the results reflected the will of Prescott voters. He noted that in 2013, voters rejected a $30 million bond proposal.
He said Tuesday's ballot returns indicated the community was more willing to accept a proposal that didn't increase tax rates above those of a soon-to-be expiring bond passed in 2004.
Pendergast said CTC members opposed the override because school administrators said it would go to across-the-board raises for all staff, not just teachers.
Citing the nearly 1-to-1 ratio of teachers to classified staff in the district, he said, "It's amazing that there's so much staff."
He repeated concerns about ballot language that was far more permissive on how funds could be spent than what school officials said they would do with either the bond or override.
"It was a real broad definition," Pendergast said of the ballot text.
He said he and other CTC members welcome a chance to sit on PUSD's bond and override oversight committee.
"We look forward to being involved with them in order to see that the citizens' money is properly spent," Pendergast said.
According to Yavapai County elections officials, 20,064 voters cast ballots in the four-question election - representing more than 54 percent voter turnout among the district's 37,064 voters.
County Recorder Leslie Hoffman said her office has approximately 400 ballots in the PUSD election to be verified for tabulation Wednesday.
Two school elections in the Verde Valley also passed Tuesday night.
In Clarkdale-Jerome Elementary School District, voters favored the continuation of a budget override by 64 percent among 782 voters.
In Mingus Union High School District, a bond gained 52 percent approval among nearly 6,000 voters.
Hoffman said about 150 votes remain to be tabulated in the Mingus Union bond election.
Follow reporter Les Bowen on Twitter @NewsyLesBowen. Reach him at 928-445-3333, ext. 1110, or 928-830-9305.