Final MUSD override election results not likely until next week

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Maricopa voters are deciding the fate of Proposition 457, a continuation of the 10% budget override originally approved in 2016. Results of the all-mail election are not expected until next week.

While preliminary results of the vote on the Maricopa Unified School District budget override bill show just 131 votes separating the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ votes, the final result will likely not be known until next week.

According to Stephanie Cooper, Pinal County’s interim elections director, about 1,700 ballots remain to be tabulated in Pinal County. The voters are deciding on Proposition 457, which would continue the 10% budget override voted in by Maricopans in 2016. Because of the state law that requires a three-day “curing period” for signatures, Cooper said she does not expect official results until next week.

“We’re going to be working on them tomorrow, but nothing will be official until I get the chairman of the Board of Supervisors and the school superintendent to sign off on it,” Cooper said. “Right now, that is not scheduled.”

Cooper said county election officials must, by law, wait until 5 p.m. Friday before signatures can be “cured”. Curing of ballots provides a chance for mailed ballots that have discrepancies or omissions, such as a missing signature on the ballot envelope, to be rectified by the voter.

As of Tuesday night, the ‘No’ votes were leading by a margin of 3,471 to 3,340, a margin of 50.9 – 49.1 percent. In most of the city’s districts the vote is close; however, in Thunderbird Farms the measure was trailing by a raw vote count of 201-78, or 123 votes.

The MUSD override allows the district to exceed its budget by 10%, or about $5 million per year based on current spending. Those funds have a major impact on education in the city, according to MUSD Superintendent Tracey Lopeman.

“That $5 million equates to about 70 teachers and counselors,” she said “Most of the funding goes to (salaries). Also, $500,000 goes to the RAM Academy and $500,000 to technology, for which the last override helped meet the district’s 1:1 goal of a laptop for every student and teacher.”

Lopeman has stressed that the district would never have been able to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic as well as it did without having a laptop for every student and teacher in the district. That allowed MUSD to provide distance learning throughout the school shutdowns and quarantining caused by the disease.

All five members of MUSD’s governing board and all seven City Council members back the measure. Supporters of the override have stressed that it is not a new tax, but a continuation of an existing tax approved by Maricopa voters five years ago.