MUSD

Marana voters overwhelmingly rejected a budget override for the Marana Unified School District that would have tacked an additional 3 percent to the 10 percent override approved last fall.

Last Tuesday’s final tally—which was a 61 to 39 percent (11,635 to 7,489) “no” vote on Prop. 456, would have allowed the district to continue its transition to digital classrooms and hire and retain staff members, according to the district’s website.

The override, which the district estimated would provide $2 million in additional revenue, had the support of the Marana Chamber of Commerce. Chamber president and CEO Ed Stolmaker called the measure a way for MUSD to support itself in October.

Proponents of the override cited its ability to curb increases in class size, which ranged from 22 in kindergarten and second grade, to 26 per class in fourth through sixth grade this school year. 

In a press release, MUSD Superintendent Doug Wilson said he believes the results “are not reflective of our community’s feelings towards the district.”

“We have a remarkably supportive community,” he said. “We have to consider that these are trying economic times in our community, state, and country; consequently impacting the ability to fund K-12 education adequately.”

Despite the outcome, Wilson said the district knows that schools play a valuable role in the success of the children in the community community and in the long term economic success of Marana.

 “We remain committed to providing the highest quality education while ensuring we are good stewards of resources entrusted to us. Our District will continue to provide a diverse educational experience to ensure our students are prepared with the skills they need to be successful in the 21st century,” Wilson said.

 In the Flowing Wells School District, voters granted approval to borrow $24 million for school building renovations and school bus purchases. Flowing Wells was the only one of four Tucson area districts to pass a financing issue in the election.

The proposition was widely supported by the Flowing Wells community and won by a 61 percent margin. 

Flowing Wells Superintendent David Baker said that he had been cautiously optimistic for the election’s outcome. 

 “We are very excited and incredibly thankful and appreciative of our community for supporting us and believing in the work that we are doing,” he said. “We have worked really hard to be good stewards of the schools, and for kids and parents I think there’s a lot of history there.”

Baker said the support of the community played a large part in the success of Proposition 455. 

Yes For Flowing Wells, a political action committee made up of parents and residents of the area, have been spreading the word on the bond and the district’s greatest needs. Member Jennifer August said she wasn’t surprised to see the proposition pass. 

“We’re very happy and so grateful to the voters,” she said. “We just feel that our kids are going to benefit from this for a long time to come.”

August has two children in the district and said the money is greatly needed, especially due to state funding cuts. 

“For me, the exciting part  is that this is going to touch every kid in one way or another,” she said. “No matter what school  they go to or what activities they are in, they will benefit.”

The three other school districts on the ballot, Marana, Sunnyside and Tucson, did not receive voter approval for funding. 

Ricky Hernandez, chief financial officer of the superintendent’s office, said that because Flowing Wells is such a tight knit community and a smaller district it’s a bit easier to make their case than larger, sprawling districts like TUSD. 

“The unfortunate part for them that people may or not understand is that there is no other pot of funding available currently for TUSD in order for them to do the repairs and kind of meet the minimum standards,” he said. 

For Sunnyside and Marana, who both asked for budget overrides, the priorities will shift without the additional financial support. Hernandez said Sunnyside was hoping to supplement their after school programs which were federally funded. That funding will be scraped at the end of the year. Marana was trying to increase teacher wages. 

According to Baker, the first step of the process for Flowing Wells will be to sell the bonds and find the right architecture firms for their construction projects. When voters approve a school bond, the school then sells the bonds to the bidder who offers the lowest interest rate. The tax payers pay back that interest through an increase in property tax. 

All taxable properties valued at $100,000 or more within the school district’s boundaries will pay an additional $81.28 annually. 

The first project will be to construct new classrooms, offices and parking at Walter Douglas Elementary School. Baker estimates it will take about 12 months. Over seven years, the district will continue to work on smaller projects, such as some improvements to athletic facilities. 

“I feel good for them (Flowing Wells),” Hernandez said. “Obviously the community came out really strongly and said we know you need money, so here you go.”

UA School of Journalism student Jaime Verwys contributed to this story.

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