High school bonds likely to prevail

Brenna Swift, The Union Democrat

Having gained a narrow lead on Election Day, Sonora Union High School District's $23 million bond measure was on safer ground Friday after a count of 5,480 mail-in ballots.

Both Sonora High's Measure J and Summerville Union High School District's $8 million Measure H need a "supermajority" of 55 percent voter approval to pass. Measure J now has 8,823 "yes" votes, or 56.2 percent of those cast.

Summerville High's Measure H is still behind at 2,463 "yes" votes, or 54.26 percent approval.

The wait isn't over: Exactly 1,313 provisional ballots remain to be counted, a process Tuolumne County Clerk and Auditor-Controller Debi Russell Bautista hopes to have done this week.

She said Measure J will "probably" pass, since it is 189 votes over the threshold for approval.

While the prospects of Summerville High's Measure H have improved since Nov. 6, when it could claim just over 52 percent approval from voters, it faces a steeper climb to victory. It's short 34 votes of passage.

Russell Bautista said she didn't know what portion of the provisional ballots came from Summerville Union High School District voters.

But after recouping the 34 "yes" votes, the bond measure would require approval on two-thirds of the remaining provisional ballots to pass, which Russell Bautista said is unlikely.

Measure J is Sonora High's first bond measure on record, according to Superintendent Mike McCoy and outgoing Board of Trustees President Ed Clinite.

It would fund work on a range of needs drawn up by committees of students, teachers and community members. First priorities include work on the humanities building, cafeteria and kitchen.

The library, science building and Depression-era Centennial Hall would also be slated for improvements. So would the stadium and swimming pool, McCoy said.

Should Measure J's passage be confirmed by the count of provisional ballots, Sonora High would work with its architect to draw up a plan and estimate costs for the projects, McCoy said.

The money to repay school bonds comes from property taxes. According to McCoy, Measure J will raise annual property taxes by about $22 per $100,000 of assessed home value.

Summerville High's Measure H would extend the $9.9 million Measure Q from 1998. Measure Q has an annual tax rate of 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.

Measure H has been the subject of intense debate among Summerville High's own staff members in recent months, with some claiming that the money from 1998's Measure Q had not been spent on promised projects.

The district did not draw up a prioritized list of campus improvements, but a facilities plan approved this fall would have helped guide the work. Improvements not made with Measure Q would have gotten "first consideration," Keiter has said.

Supporters of Measure H conducted last-minute campaign work Tuesday night by watching polls and calling pledged supporters who had not yet voted.

Keiter said last week that he was still hopeful the measure would pass, particularly since Sonora Elementary School's own $7.8 million Measure H passed in 2010 only after a count of provisional ballots.

11883978
The Union Democrat
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