By more than 1,600 votes, people in Marana Unified School District rejected a higher secondary property tax override in last Tuesday's election.

The vote was 6,230-4,616 against the 15 percent override, which would have generated an anticipated $3.1 million a year in additional property tax revenue for the 13,000-student district.

The question lost by a 57.4-42.6 percent margin. Early voters were decisive; they rejected the tax 5,040-2,832, while voters at the polls Tuesday said "yes" by a 1,712-1,165 margin.

"Obviously, we are disappointed in the outcome in the election," said Tamara Crawley, public information director for MUSD. "The additional revenue would have assisted us in maintaining crucial services and programs in the district. However, we do recognize this is a difficult economic time."

MUSD now anticipates facing reductions in funding of between $4.5 million and $16 million for next school year, Crawley said. The specific sum is dependent in part on the outcome of a sales tax proposition being placed before Arizona voters on Tuesday, May 18.

"We know we have challenging times ahead, and some difficult decisions to make," Crawley said. "We will be gathering information, holding public forums," and getting "information and feedback from our staff, our parents and our community, in order to assist us in making the best possible decisions."

At this time, MUSD has made "no decisions regarding what programs or services may or may not be offered next school year," she emphasized.

MUSD's current 10 percent override, generating some $6.2 million a year, remains in effect through 2013, with one-third reductions each year beginning in 2011-'12 if it is not re-authorized by the voters. The school board must decide "when or if we go back to the voters to reauthorize that," Crawley said.

Revenue from the 15 percent override would have been used to protect class sizes, help maintain full-day kindergarten and help pay for extracurricular activities, district officials have said. Through the use of debt service revenues, the district anticipated it would not have to increase secondary property taxes to generate the override funds in the first year, and perhaps beyond. A political action committee, MUSD Campaign 2010, worked on behalf of the vote, distributing pamphlets and signs, and holding phone bank sessions. The district expressed its appreciation for the work of the MUSD Campaign 2010, and those who supported the override," Crawley said.

"We'll continue to be diligent in our cost-saving measures," Crawley said. "This past year, we experienced a reduction in staff, implementation of furlough days, cut operating expenses and department budgets, and enhanced energy conservation efforts. We continue to look at all ways we can reduce costs.

"We also know we need to continue to increase awareness in the community, and we value the ongoing support of our parents and community," she said. "We will continue our commitment to placing our students as the No. 1 priority."

Turnout in MUSD was 23.8 percent of the district's 45,554 registered voters. The override was the only question on the ballot.

Voters in the Flowing Wells School District defeated an override by a vote of 1,368-1,298. Sahuarita voters resoundingly passed an override in that district, with nearly 62 percent of voters saying "yes."

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