Preliminary election results Tuesday suggest that voters narrowly approved Sonora High School’s $23 million general obligation bond and nixed Summerville High’s Measure H, an $8 million extension of an earlier bond measure.
Both school districts sought funds for the long-term improvement of school buildings and grounds, such as Sonora High’s Depression-era Centennial Hall and Summerville High’s decades-old art classroom.
The general obligation bond measures required a 55 percent supermajority to pass.
Results of ballots counted by Tuesday night show that 55.2 percent of Sonora Union High School District voters approved Measure J, a razor-slim margin. The measure garnered 6,843 “yes” votes and 5,542 “nos.”
By contrast, about 52.2 percent of Summerville Union High School District voters approved of Measure H, with “1,712 “yes” votes and 1,566 “noes.”
There are still outstanding ballots to be counted in Tuolumne County — an estimated 5,000 mail-in and 1,800 provisional ballots. The estimates could not be broken down by school district or precinct Tuesday night.
Sonora Union High School District Superintendent Mike McCoy said he was encouraged by the preliminary results.
“I’m just cautiously optimistic,” McCoy said. “I’m very, very pleased that the people of Tuolumne County have supported our students.”
Measure J is Sonora High’s first bond measure on record and would fund work on a range of needs identified by the community. They include the humanities building, cafeteria and kitchen, library, science building and Centennial Hall.
A new agriculture facility is another possibility. Further down the list of priorities are technology improvements for the campus, then a stadium track and aquatics complex.
The money to repay the school bonds will come from property taxes.
According to McCoy, Measure J would raise annual property taxes by about $22 per $100,000 of assessed home value.
The conditions of Summerville High’s bond differ, with new property taxes that would take effect only after those from the $9.9 million Measure Q begin phasing out in 2023.
The annual tax rate for Measure Q is about $40 per $100,000 of assessed value. After 2023, the rate would have started going down until it reached about $30 per $100,000 under the new Measure H, according to Summerville Union High School District superintendent John Keiter.
Sonora Union High School District covers Sonora, Jamestown, Curtis Creek, Soulsbyville, Columbia and Belleview school districts. Summerville High includes Summerville Elementary and Twain Harte-Long Barn school districts.
Summerville High’s Measure H would have allowed the district to renovate outdated classrooms and other facilities. It would extend the $9.9 million Measure Q, passed in 1998. Measure Q funded the construction of a new library and theater, in addition to other work on campus.
Measure Q didn’t cover all the necessary changes, particularly those related to technology, Keiter added.
He added that an extension for Measure Q would have made Summerville eligible for more state improvement money.
“Most of the state grants require the local community to put the money where their mouths are,” he said.
Unlike Sonora High School, Summerville High did not release a prioritized list of projects that would have been undertaken with bond money.
The absence of such a list drew criticism from teachers and community members who felt Measure Q funds hadn’t been spent on promised projects.
Measure G, a proposed extension similar to Measure H, was voted down in 2010 by a narrow margin.
Keiter remained optimistic Tuesday night, noting that not all ballots had been counted.
By county Election Office estimates, some 6,800 absentee and provisional ballots countywide had yet to be counted Tuesday — some likely from Sonora and Summerville area residents.
“I’m not even sure we’ll know,” he said. “It might take more than one day to count them.”