CHICAGO - Weighing in on more than just their presidential primary picks on Super Tuesday, voters in California cast mostly favorable votes on more than $2.5 billion worth of school bonding requests while voting on ballot measures elsewhere in the country produced a mixed bag of results.
California voters faced a hefty slate of bond questions and endorsed most of the largest measures with the 55% supermajority vote required for passage during district-wide elections.
The statewide presidential primary presented a new twist for California elections as it was the first time such an election was held in February. The state will also hold its traditional June primary for local and legislative positions, as well as the November general election, so there will be three statewide elections this year.
Statewide elections are significant for would-be school bond issuers in California. That's because the rules that allow school bonds to pass with 55% of the vote, instead of the two-thirds that is needed for all other local bond measures, require such bond elections be held in conjunction with a district-wide vote - and a statewide election fills the bill.
Only one large school bond measure in California appears to have failed, despite capturing more than 50% of the vote, according to preliminary election returns. Measure L, a proposal for $178.4 million in bonds for the Napa Valley Community College District, fell short of the 55% supermajority needed for passage with 50.5% approving it and 49.5% rejecting it.
The story was more positive elsewhere in the Golden State. Voters in the Palm Springs Unified School District in Riverside County approved the largest ballot measure - a $516 million general obligation bond request - by a margin of 61% to 39%, according to unofficial results. Officials for the 24,000-student district say the money is needed to upgrade existing schools, build new ones to accommodate a projected enrollment increase, and replace portable classrooms with permanent ones.
Voters also approved a $500 million authorization for the San Bernardino Community College District and $464 million for the Stockton Unified School District. The Long Beach Community College District got voter support from 73% of those casting a ballot for a $440 million issue and in San Diego County 64% of voters backed a $179 million issue for Poway Unified School District.
Voters in San Francisco were overwhelmingly behind the $185 million Proposition A for neighborhood parks. The measure needed approval by two-thirds of voters, and got more than that, with 72% in favor and 28% against.
In Santa Clara County, voters in the East Side Union High School District also backed a $349 million bond issue by an overwhelming margin of 71% in favor to 29% against. While in Orange County, voters approved a $200 million school repair and improvement bond for the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District by a much narrower margin of 57% in favor and 43% against. And in San Mateo County, voters in the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District voted 75.53% in favor of a $175 million bond question.
Many more school districts are likely to appear on the ballot with bond measures this June on California's traditional primary date.
On the East Coast, voters in Gwinnett County, Ga., on Tuesday approved the sale of $750 million in bonds to build eight new schools and to add on to 10 others, as well as for technology updates and land purchases for new schools. The vote was nearly 3-1 in favor of the issue, which was the largest on ballots there this week.
In Forsyth County, north of Atlanta, voters approved extending the special purpose local sales tax for another five years. Proceeds are expected to generate at least $100 million, which will be used to fund projects on a pay-as-you-go basis. Forsyth voters also approved $100 million of bonds for parks and recreation projects.
Clayton County voters also approved renewing a sales tax measure. Specifically, they approved a 1% sales tax increase to put towards roughly $305 million of projects, including libraries, roads, and a juvenile justice center. The funds will be expended on a pay-as-you-go basis.
In the Midwest, results were mixed on several hundred million of bond referendum on the ballot. About 59% of voters in the fast-growing Lockport Township High School District205 southwest of Chicago rejected a $154 million bond question promoted to finance construction of a new high school and new classrooms. The measure was the district's third shot at asking voters for new bonding authority, with officials warning that current buildings can't safely house its growing enrollment.
Voters in the Minooka Elementary School District, another fast-growing southwest suburban district, approved by 60% a $55 million referendum to finance construction of two new schools.
The Homer Community Consolidated School District 33C, also a burgeoning district southwest of Chicago, saw its $25.7 million bond question for new schools and other improvements shot down by more than 1,000 votes.
Voters north and northwest of Chicago looked favorably on most bond questions. Big Hollow School District 38 voters approved a $10 million bond issue to fund a working cash fund. Mundelein District 75 approved $10 million in borrowing for school building improvements. Voters in Grant Community High School's District approved a $38.5 million referendum to fund expansion projects.
Wauconda Park District voters denied a $12 billion bonding request, while Fox Lake Library District voters approved a $15 million measure for a new library.
Further south in Illinois, voters in the Rochester School District approved $26 million in borrowing to finance expansion projects to accommodate a growing enrollment. To the far west near the Missouri border, voters in the Granite City School District rejected a $22 million bond issue for various renovations and improvements to its aging buildings. Voters in the Rock Island-Milan School District approved a $22 million measure for new construction.
In Evanston, Ill., on Chicago's northern border, voters rejected an increase in the city's tax on real estate transactions to raise $140 million to help rebuild its poorly funded police and fire pensions.
Meanwhile, voters in St. Louis approved a half-cent sales tax increase with the majority of the $18 million that is expected to be raised annually going to improve the funding levels of the city's police and fire funds. The city last year issued $143 million in debt to help cover a state supreme court judgment ordering it to increase the level of prior payments.
Amy B. Resnick, Gary Siegel, and Tedra DeSue contributed to this story.