Voters reject Higley USD bond ask

Higley USD district office
Higley USD's capital bond lost by nearly 10% at the ballot box. (Courtesy Higley USD)

Higley USD's capital bond lost by nearly 10% at the ballot box. (Courtesy Higley USD)

Voters have rebuked Higley USD’s $95 million capital bond ask.

The final count Nov. 5 from the Maricopa County Elections Department showed the bond losing 6,614-5,490 (54.64-45.36%). The Maricopa County Elections Department listed 13,025 votes cast with 920 undervotes (no selection made) and one overvote (both yes and no selected).

In an email sent to district families Nov. 3, Superintendent Dawn Foley thanked the community for making its voice heard, though it was not the result for which the district had hoped.

"We want families to know that we remain focused on supporting our schools and students," she wrote. "As discussed in our bond presentations and at school board meetings, we are a growing school district with many capital needs. We will continue to have meetings to discuss issues and develop solutions to find the best possible way to support our students and facility needs."

Foley pledged to continue to communicate with the community while finding solutions to benefit Higley students.

HUSD Board President Kristina Reese said she was disappointed in the results and the voter turnout, which was 23.32%.

ver since last election, there's been a lot of discussion about election concerns, so I don't know if that had something to do with the lower turnout," she said. "This was an all mail-in ballot, which was very different, so I don't know if that has something to do with it. I do think in our district, there was a lot of opposition with the town of Gilbert's [streets, transportation and infrastructure] bond that was displayed within our district that I felt could be confusing for our voters within the Higley district. So I'm not sure [what it was]. There's only been one other time that we've not passed an educational measure, and that was the bond to build the middle schools didn't pass [in 2012]."

The biggest item on the bond was $32 million to pay off one of the two leases on the district’s two middle schools, Cooley and Sossaman. Reese pointed out that HUSD is the only district in the state that has such a payment.

"It takes away from what we can do for our students and our staff to stay competitive and to give them what we feel that they deserve," she said.

The proposed bond measure would have funded transportation ($3.5 million) and major facility maintenance ($11 million). It also included $15.5 million to keep up the district’s commitment for a 1:1 student to technological device ratio plus fund additional safety and security measures.

It addressed future growth with $2.5 million to buy land for a future school and $27 million for major projects, such as building more classrooms at existing schools. The remainder of the money was for contingencies.

Foley said the district will have to look at its options for funding needs.

"A lot of intentional thinking and planning went into how do we do the very best for Higley with given the unique circumstances we have with our growth, with our leases, with what we've identified as our needs," she said. "We're going to have to come back and figure out how are we going to address that with the resources we have. How are we going to prioritize it? Now we just start working on that Plan B and C and D and come back with options and recommendations for the board on other next steps so that we can try and be competitive and provide for the growth that we have already identified as coming and address the infrastructure needs we know we have."

All results are unofficial until canvassed.

Visit our online Voter Guide for all local election results in your community.
By Tom Blodgett

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.


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