All three City of Scottsdale bond questions and Scottsdale Unified School District’s budget override passed by wide margins, unofficial returns from the elections showed.
The city’s victory gives officials the ability to issue $319 million in bonds to fund capital projects throughout the city.
The unofficial results in the bond election reflected approximately 48,000 votes, or 92 percent of the nearly 51,000 ballots the county had received as of Nov. 4.
The county still needs to tally ballots received on Election Day before it certifies final results.
Question 1, which won by a margin of 69-31 percent, will provide up to $112.6 million for parks and recreation projects.
Question 2, which gained a 68-32 percent vote, will provide up to $112.3 million for infrastructure and community spaces.
Question 3 won by the widest margin – 73 to 27 percent – and will provide up to $94.1 million to improve the city’s public safety and technology infrastructure.
Scottsdale Councilmember Virginia Korte, who split election night between events hosted by the pro-bond and pro-override campaigns, said the bond vote “reflects that our citizens are willing to invest in our community to maintain the quality of our lifestyle.”
Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp, who sat on the Council’s subcommittee that vetted bond projects earlier this year, said the early effort to vet bond projects and gather citizen feedback paid off, as evidenced by the larger margin of victory.
“I think that the three of us actually came together and came up with a good plan,” said Klapp, who served on the subcommittee with Councilwomen Kathy Littlefield and Councilman Guy Phillips.
Voters within SUSD voted to continue the district’s existing maintenance and operations budget override 61 to 39 percent with only about 26 percent of ballots cast, according to unofficial results.
The override continuation will provide an estimated $21.4 million in funding to maintain current class sizes, continue all-day kindergarten and keep teacher salaries at competitive levels, according to the district.
The override also funds technology in the classroom, professional staff development and other programs like world languages, music and art.
“I’m so proud of our community,” SUSD Governing Board President Patty Beckman said.
The passage of both the bond questions and override were not a given, considering Scottsdale’s history.
City of Scottsdale voters have not passed a bond package of this size since 2000, when voters approved six of nine questions totaling $358.2 million.
Since that time, the city’s residents have turned down over $340 million in bond asks, only approving two questions totaling $29 million in 2015.
“I’ve been on the Council for 11 years...it's nice to see a bunch of questions actually pass after all the failures,” Klapp said, noting the passage will relieve pressure on the city’s budget.
For Korte, dealing with the lingering bond question will allow the city to focus on addressing other issues.
“Now it’s time for the Council to concentrate on other issues rather than failing bridges and libraries that are out of date,” Korte said.
SUSD has a similarly fraught history with override elections.
Voters turned down budget overrides in 2012 and 2013, which resulted in cut programs throughout the district.
A coordinated get out the vote campaign by the For the Best Scottsdale political action committee poured a lot manpower and money into the effort to pass the bonds.
The PAC brought together a number of individuals from both sides of the political spectrum who had previously sparred during the previous contentious political battles in the city, most notably the fight over Proposition 420 last year.
“Almost more important than having these bonds passed in their entirety is what it's done for the community,” Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane said. “(I am) talking in terms of bringing different groups of folks together and uniting the community.”
Lane said he hopes to see that carry forward into the future.
“I think what it proves to all of us is we can work together and we need to listen to one another,” Lane said.
The bond PAC’s chairwoman, Paula Sturgeon, said she felt confident all three questions would pass after early numbers from the county indicated voter turnout would exceed turnout in the last failed bond election in 2015.
Turnout in the city’s portion of the all-mail election was 29.4 percent as of Nov. 4, already surpassing the 25 percent turnout in 2015.
“I was very confident that our message resonated when we saw the number of votes being cast,” Sturgeon said. “People don't turn out in those numbers to vote no.”
Sturgeon’s confidence showed.
Prior to finding out the results of the election, PAC members at the For the Best Scottsdale election night party wrote down their guesses for the average margin of victory for the three questions on a whiteboard.
The guesses varied between 58 and 78 percent.
Sturgeon’s guess? 69.5 percent - nearly right on the money.
The For the Best Scottsdale PAC spent a lot of money - nearly $250,000 as of October 19 - in its effort to pass the bonds.
The PAC raised $368,598 through October 19, mostly from businesses and interest groups like Barrett-Jackson, Scottsdale Charros, Macerich, San Francisco Giants and Nationwide and Equity Partners Group, owned by downtown Scottsdale developer Shawn Yari.
The PAC spent over $88,000 on printing alone in the month of October.
The PAC also paid nearly $32,000 to the Rose + Moser + Allyn public relations, which ran the campaign, over the course of the election.
“I am so happy,” SUSD Governing Board President Patty Beckman said the moment the unofficial returns became known.
Beckman, Kriekard and other override supporters gathered at Porter’s Western Saloon in Old Town Scottsdale on Tuesday night to await the results.
Members of the Yes to Children PAC that supported passing the override organized the event.
Yes to Children co-chairman Denny Brown credited the organization’s grassroots effort, spearheaded by a team of six community captains spread throughout the district, for generating support for the override.
“It’s unbelievable,” Brown said of the initial results. “I’m appreciative of the hard work that went into this by so many folks.”
SUSD Superintendent John Kriekard gave most credit to the district’s teachers for repairing the community’s trust in the district.
That trust has been racked by controversy in recent years, including the firing of Kriekard’s predecessor Denise Birdwell over corruption allegations.
“The teachers on a day to day basis help the kids s0 the parents feel confident in what's going on in their school,” Kriekard said. “Day to day, that happens for 23,000 students and that makes a difference.”
“Through all the issues, Scottsdale has had the teachers did their jobs, kept their nose to the grindstone, took care of kids and the community appreciates that,” Kriekard said.
The pro-override Yes to Children PAC brought in a significant amount of money to support the override passage as well.
The PAC raised just over $59,000 as of Sept. 30, much of which came from parent teacher organizations at district schools.
Big contributors also included Scottsdale Charros ($10,000) and business that have had contracts with the school district, including SPS+ Architects ($1,000), Orcutt Winslow architecture firm ($5,000), McCarthy Building Company ($5,000), Chasse Building Team ($9,800) and Core Construction ($9,500)
As of Sept. 30, the PAC spent over $31,000, primarily on printing, postage, signs and consultants.
Voters in one of Scottsdale’s other school districts, Paradise Valley Unified School District, passed a district additional assistance capital override along with a $236.1 million bond.
According to unofficial returns, 55 percent of voters supported the Paradise Valley override and 62 percent supported the bond.