Scottsdale takes step toward unity with local election results, leaders say

Posted

Scottsdale officials are rejoicing following the unofficial results of the special, all-mail Nov. 5 election, where local voters were asked to approve four million-dollar ballot measures.

Also, voters were asked to vote on a budget override for the Scottsdale Unified School District, as well as three bond questions to fund up to $319 million in projects ranging from expanding senior centers to infrastructure.

Unofficial results by the Maricopa County Records Office showed a voter turn out of about 26% for the school district, and 27% for the city’s ballot initiatives.

As of results posted at 8 p.m., there were 47,798 ballots cast for the Scottsdale bond election.

Scottsdale bond question No. 1, seeking voter authorization to sell up to $112.6 million general obligation bonds for parks, recreation, and senior services was approved with 32,891 ballots cast, or 69%.

Scottsdale bond question No. 2, seeking voter authorization to sell up to $112.3 million general obligation bonds for community spaces and infrastructure was approved with 32,001 ballots cast, or 68%.

Scottsdale bond question No. 3, seeking voter authorization to sell up to $94.1 million general obligation bonds for public safety and technology was approved with 33,881 ballots cast, or 73%.

The Scottsdale Unified School District M&O override renewal was also approved by 61% of voters, with 25,780 ballots cast.

Believing in local schools

SUSD Governing Board President Patty Beckman was feeling many emotions the morning after the election.

“The first thought you have is you’re grateful, and probably a little bit relieved at the same time,” Ms. Beckman said. “I’m excited to continue going forward with the great work we’ve been doing, the district has been doing, and continue to raise the bar to do more things.”

With this vote, the secondary property tax rate for SUSD will be $0.38 per $100 of net assessed valuation through June 30, 2025.

Ms. Beckman says with the passage of the override, the district will be able to continue its programs --- pointing out the importance of the district’s academics and students.

“The override will enable us to continue our programs, so that we can support kids in a competitive education environment like they’ve always known in Scottsdale,” she said.

The 2019 SUSD M&O override will generate an estimated $21.4 million beginning in fiscal year 2020-21 that will be used to:

  •  Maintain current class-size standards;
  •  Maintain all-day kindergarten programming;
  •  Maintain an emphasis on technology for students and classrooms;
  •  Maintain professional learning opportunities for staff;
  •  Maintain competitive salaries for teachers; and
  •  Maintain current music, art, world languages, athletics and co-curricular activities.

“We are grateful to our community for endorsing the continuation of this additional funding mechanism to support these important programs,” said Superintendent Dr. John Kriekard in a prepared statement. “This decision is an important step in our continuing effort to secure funding to ensure our students are best prepared for their future.”

Ms. Beckman pointed out the override initiative in 2014, which was not passed by voters, and Scottsdale Schools was forced to make cuts to its programs --- and even chop one school day in half every week. A few years later, Ms. Beckman says the passing of the override shows community support.

“They believe in public education, first and foremost, and believe in Scottsdale unified and the direction we’re taking to move forward,” Ms. Beckman said.

“With education and leaders in the classroom, they know we need the funds from the state level to the local level to drive us forward in an ever-changing educational climate.”

However, Ms. Beckman points out that of the nearly 45,000 ballots cast, 39% still opposed the override continuation.

“When you look at the numbers, 61% said ‘keep going, raise the bar, keep the district moving forward.’ But 39% said, ‘we’re not quite there yet,’” Ms. Beckman explained.

“We have an obligation to all of our taxpayers --- the ones that said, ‘yes,’ and the ones that said we’re not quite there yet to say, ‘yes.’ We do have areas of challenge, and we want to make sure we’re always focused on not only pleasing and doing right by voters who said yes to us, but also making believers out of the 39% who weren’t’ quite there yet. Maybe next time around we’ve changed the minds of some of those people and they will be believers of our schools.”

A good day for Scottsdale

At the city level, the three approved bond questions signifies the support of a major bond project --- which Scottsdale hasn’t witnessed in 19 years.

Mayor Jim Lane was also very positive following the announcement of election results. While polls and anecdotal feelings reported a likely positive outcome, Mr. Lane says there is always the chance things won’t go as planned.

“Well, I’m delighted --- one of the most positive things that I think has come out of it, other than passage of the bond, is a significant unifying on issues,” Mr. Lane said.

“I think that is one of the most positive items we could have coming out of it; people who were in a total state of distrust, of City Hall, or anything we would produce or advocate for, all came together and recognized it had been nearly 20 years since any substantive capital bonds had been passed.”

Mr. Lane says all together, the residents of Scottsdale recognized the need for unity. After the Prop. 420 ballot in November 2018, which Mr. Lane described as rigorous and difficult, the newest election outcome is good for the city.

“It’s been a good thing for the city and I hope we can keep it, and should be able to work together a lot better now,” he said.

There are 58 total bond projects between the three questions approved by voters. The projects range from roadway improvements, to additional parking in the city to new athletic fields.

“The numbers were substantial, and a great indication of the recognition of a need particularly after the Great Recession and a deferral of a lot of this,” Mr. Lane said, pointing to much-needed infrastructure.

“As I said last night, this was sort of the completion of a recovery cycle we went through. I think we went through that very well --- some things that had been deferred we will be able to take care of now. It’s positive, and I’m delighted.”

The financial impact of the bond election will vary from resident to resident based on property values and the amount of bonds issued.

The estimated average annual tax rate for the proposed bond authorization is $0.2877 per $100 of limited assessed valuation used for secondary property tax purposes.

According to the Maricopa County Assessor, the 2020 estimated median single-family home value in Scottsdale is $375,000, the assessed value of which is $37,500. With all the bonds on the ballot approved, the estimated property tax impact for that homeowner will be $107.89 per year ($8.99 per month).

The bonds will be issued in stages as existing bonds are paid off, which will keep the city’s secondary property taxes at or below current levels.

Overall, Mr. Lane summed up his feelings on the election:

“It’s a good day for Scottsdale,” he said.

Comments