Unofficial election results showed voters in Santa Cruz County saying “yes” to two ballot measures – one local, the other statewide – meant to increase funding for public schools.
On the local measure, which asked voters in the Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District to increase an existing maintenance and operations budget override from 7 to 9 percent, “yes” led “no” by a margin of 4,676 votes to 3,959, according to tallies released Thursday evening by the County Elections Office.
The statewide question, listed on ballots as Proposition 208, sought approval for a new school tax on the income of the state’s highest earners.
In Santa Cruz County, “yes” had 11,276 votes, compared to 7,434 votes for “no.” Incomplete tallies from the Arizona Secretary of State published Friday morning showed 52 percent of voters statewide saying yes to Prop. 208.
Marsha Vose of Tubac, who was campaigning for the Biden/Harris presidential ticket outside the voting center at the local community center on Tuesday, said she voted in favor of both measures.
“I believe that our schools have been defunded for the last almost four decades in our state and we have to play catch-up. And then with this COVID situation, they’re really hurting,” she said.
Veronica Orozco of Rio Rico, who voted Tuesday at the Rio Rico Community Center, also expressed her support.
“If it’s anything to help the schools, I’m all for it, because we do need to help our teachers right now,” she said.
SCVUSD initially brouht the override increase to voters during a special election in 2019, as it went hand-in-hand with a $22.5 million bond measure meant to fund new infrastructure projects.
The bond request passed by 145 votes, but the override lost by a 13-vote margin.
During a school board meeting last summer, district administrators said the override was necessary to cover the maintenance and operational costs associated with the bond measure, which included renovations of all school campuses and construction of a community pool, a new football stadium and five tennis courts, among other projects and facilities.
John Fanning, who served as chair of the override committee, said the construction of the pool would add nearly $170,000 in operational costs, and maintenance of the other new facilities would total more than $54,000.
The district also estimated it would incur nearly $120,000 in new costs for staff positions and management software programs, he said.
According to a fact sheet published by the district, the estimated tax impact of the override measure on the owner of a home valued at $116,560 would be $141 a year.
Prop. 208 – which grew out of the #RedForEd movement that demands better funding for public education in Arizona – would impose a 3.5-percent income tax surcharge to the existing 4.5-percent income tax on Arizona residents who report an annual income of more than $250,000 in a single filing, or more than $500,000 in a joint filing.
Critics of the proposition argued that the measure would scare off out-of-state companies from locating in Arizona, and that it would hurt small businesses that have already been heavily affected by the pandemic.
But local advocates of the measure countered that the measure would only tax personal incomes, not businesses, and that only a small percentage of Arizona residents would be affected.
In a letter to the editor published Oct. 30 in the NI, Venesa Garcia, president of the organization that represents teachers in the Nogales Unified School District, asserted that passage of Prop. 208 could mean an extra $3.5 million in the first year for NUSD. Of that money, she said, approximately $2 million would go to certificated employees and $1.1 million would go to classified employees.