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Voters approved a $26.6 million bond package to fund future investments and to pay off existing debt within the Golder Ranch Fire District, which services portions of northwest Tucson into Southern Pinal County.

The Golder Ranch Fire District will soon have an additional $26.6 million at its disposal after Oro Valley, Catalina and SaddleBrooke voters narrowly approved a bond package on the Nov. 5 election. 

Most recent figures show that 11,598 voted for the measure while 10,552 voted against, 52 to 47 percent.

With that approval, the district will have funding to not only implement remodels of existing stations to bring them up to building code and National Fire Protection Association standards, but also install new alerting infrastructure, build new training facilities and additional administrative office spaces, restructure existing debts and more. 

The district will not use the bond funding to pay for new equipment, instead using its operations budget, because gear typically depreciates at a faster rate than the bond is active.

According to Golder Ranch Fire Chief Randy Karrer, the district is “excited and humbled” by the bond approval because it will allow them to decrease response times to emergencies and put engineering practices in place to keep firefighters safer from the risk of cancer.

“We strive to be ‘community first,’ and it is amazing to have the community invested in us as much as we are in them.” Karrer said.

Before the election, Karrer told Tucson Local Media that a bond package was the best way to fund capital improvements without causing spikes in the property tax rate. Instead of increasing the tax rate to pay for individual needs, the district will issue two 20-year bonds.

As previously reported by Tucson Local Media, the district’s bond committee concluded that the secondary property tax rate currently set at 9 cents per every $100,000 of assessed home value will quickly move up to 17 cents, but then decline in the following years to a final rate of 8 cents per $100,000 at the end of the bond’s life.

The first few years of the bond will be dedicated solely to paying the interest and restructuring the district’s existing debt. Golder Ranch was founded in 1977, and more recently consolidated with the smaller (and now defunct) Mountain Vista Fire District in 2017. When the consolidation took place, Golder Ranch acquired Mountain Vista’s debt—more than $5 million. Once the debt situation is handled, the district will begin renovations to its older stations, beginning with #375 in Rancho Vistoso.

Aiding Education

Despite advancements made after last year’s #RedforEd movement, public school districts are still in need of funding after the Great Recession forced money elsewhere. In Amphi alone, more than $120 million was cut over a decade.

To help shore up operations the district has utilized a budget override, which allows for the collection of 10 percent of what the state provided that year, directly from local homeowners through a secondary property tax. The total amount is about $7.9 million, and the money goes toward maintenance and operation expenses. The override requires approval every five years, and Amphi voters already approved the proposition three times since 2005.

Voters once again decided to support the school district, approving Prop 475 and 476 last Tuesday. Prop 475 was a continuation of the district’s 10 percent bump, while Prop. 476 increased the tax by an additional 3.5 percent. 

That extra money—which averages out to $43 per household annually—will provide free full-day kindergarten and shrink class sizes in those grades by five to eight fewer students.

Voters approved Prop. 475 by a 59 to 40 percent margin, 17,298 to 12,003 votes. Prop. 476 passed with 57 percent approval, 15,742 votes for and 11,571 against.

“We are so grateful to the entire Amphitheater District community for their continuing support of our vital override programs that are already in place,” said Amphi Superintendent Todd Jaeger. “And the passage of our new override for K-3 programs will be a game changer for our youngest students. I am so proud to be a part of this amazing community.”

A similar measure was also approved in the Flowing Wells Unified School District, which asked for a 10 percent override. Prop. 473 passed 56 to 43 percent, 2,244 votes for and 1,751 against.

The Altar Valley Elementary District, located roughly 20 miles west of Tucson, also received approval from voters for its override, while Sunnyside Unified School District voters shot down their proposition.

The Blue Pueblo

The City of Tucson will have its first Latina mayor after city council member Regina Romero, a Democrat, beat out Independent candidate Ed Ackerly and Green Party Candidate Mike Cease.

According to the most recent figures, Romero has 56 percent of the vote, compared to Ackerley’s 40 percent and Cease’s 4 percent.

Romero, who had represented Ward 1 for 12 years, launched her campaign to replace Mayor Jonathan Rothschild after he announced he would not seek a third term.

“As important and historic as this night is, let me tell you what excites me tonight,” Romero told an election night party hosted at Hotel Congress. “The people of Tucson have said loud and clear that it’s time to take our city to the next level of progress and prosperity, that we’re ready to act boldly on climate, they we believe in fighting for social and economic justice for all Tucsonans. Regardless of what differences of opinion we have, we will always be one Tucson. Somos uno.”

Romero wasn’t the only Democrat to come out on top last week. 

Ward 1 candidate Lane Santa Cruz, a former aide in Romero’s office, had 58 percent of the vote against Republican Sam Nagy and Green Party candidate Matthew Smith. 

Incumbent Ward 2 councilman Paul Cunningham won another term, capturing 60 percent of the vote against Republican Ewart Williams and Green Party candidate William Peterson. 

Ward 4 candidate Nikki Lee, who previously ran a campaign for a state representative seat, won 57 percent of the vote against Republican Mike Hicks and Green Party candidate Cara Bissell.

No Sanctuary

One of the most hotly contested topics on Tucson’s ballot involved no candidates, but was nonetheless the topics of conversation in grocery store lines, hair salons and offices alike.

Prop. 205, the Sanctuary City initiative, was struck a major defeat in the polls last week after 71 percent of voters rejected the proposal.

The initiative would have limited the ability of local police to inquire about immigration status and prevented federal law-enforcement agents from working with Tucson police unless they signed an agreement that would likewise limit their ability to inquire about immigration status.

If Prop. 205 passed it would have created the first Sanctuary City in the State of Arizona, joining other municipalities in California, Colorado, Connecticut, New Mexico and several other states.

Contributions to this story were made by Logan Burtch-Buus, Kathleen B. Kunz and Jim Nintzel.

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