Tucson, Higley and Deer Valley Get Big “No” from Voters
By Eric Jay Toll for The Arizona Builder’s Exchange
Eight of ten school districts and three of four cities are celebrating big wins from local voters with nods to move ahead with $805M in capital projects. The City of Tucson and Higley and Deer Valley unified school districts are heading back to the drawing board to figure out what to do following vote failures.
Mesa voters approved well over one-third of the total bond expenditures with a pair of packages totaling $300M. Mesa’s $70M park and recreation bond was partially paired with the $230M Mesa school district’s quest for capital funding. Projects, such as the demolition and repurposing of the old Mesa Junior High School, were tied to both the city and school district bond elections. Voters passed the two measures with more than 60 percent casting favorable votes.
After two failed attempts, West-MEC is celebrating a $75M victory that will pave the way for new campuses and upgraded capital facilities at its existing locations.
All of the projects are included in the AZBEX October 9th Capital Bond Issue.
School districts with new construction and physical improvements in the measure walked away from the polls with victories on November 6th. Higley’s proposal for a public-private long-term leaseback deal passed by a large margin—however a large margin also defeated the money required to build the two middle schools.
No Votes Send Mixed Message
Tucson officials are reportedly stunned by the $100M road program’s defeat. Tucson identified all of the projects slated for improvements and reconstruction and carefully worded the bond to lock in how the funds were to be spent. Opponents in the Old Pueblo say the vote is more of a “no confidence” in city officials than a voter rejection of road improvements.
Deer Valley, which was essentially mortgaging maintenance and technology, had no new construction or remodeling in its bond proposal. Voters rejected the proposal 57 to 43 percent. The district says it may need to cut more than $6M from its budget.
The Higley capital bond failure is ironic because voters already approved the expenditures in 2008, but the lack of action by the legislature made it impossible for the district to use approved, but unspent, money. The drop in assessed valuation during the recession imposed a cap on district indebtedness, preventing the district from selling more bonds.
AZBEX table (with additional data by Phoenix Business Journal).