Final tally has Higley bond item passing, barely - East Valley Tribune: Gilbert

Final tally has Higley bond item passing, barely

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Posted: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 1:15 pm | Updated: 1:33 pm, Tue Nov 12, 2013.

In an age of immediacy, the old adage that "the best things are worth waiting for" sometimes still holds true.

The Higley Unified School District can attest to that.

Initial results from last week's election that showed the district's override and bond measures both failing led Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell to lament the losses in a public statement, only to see the $70.5 million bond package eventually pass when final results were announced Friday night.

"When it looked like we were going to lose, it was not a happy place around here," Kevin Hegarty, Higley CFO, said Tuesday. "There were some high-fives when things turned around."

The bond for possible future needs including school construction carried with 51.2 percent of the vote. The bond garnered 316 more votes than the district's 10 percent maintenance-and-operations budget override request that was voted down for a second straight year.

With new-home construction moving at a rapid pace in the district, Hegarty said Higley plans to quickly purchase up to three plots of land for future school construction — in addition to the plot it already owns in the Bridges area at the southern end of the district.

Higley already commissioned a demographics study to determine when and where to build in the future. The results of that study are expected in January.

Hegarty said an elementary school is expected to be the first built. Beyond that, the district will wait for the survey's results.

Higley opened two new schools this year.

"There are a lot of builders working in our district right now. We have to buy land before the land is all gone," Hegarty said. "Then people and the developers will know where the schools will go."

The bond funds also will be used for maintenance and security upgrades at current schools, replacing buses and upgrading the district's technology infrastructure.

None of that appeared likely when the measure trailed by 72 votes in the initial results released after the Nov. 5 election — at least not to Birdwell.

"The failure of the bond means Higley will need to use money now in the maintenance and operations budget to fund critical repairs to buildings," the superintendent said in a statement released the following day, only to have the measure's ultimate future cast into doubt less than 24 hours later with next round of results.

Hegarty said the district was told a lot of mail-in ballots were hand delivered to a polling place on election day, many by parents, and thus were not accounted for in the initial results.

"I'm cautiously optimistic regarding the bond question," Birdwell said in a second statement Thursday afternoon. "This is great news for the students and families of Higley."

The measure passed by 170 votes; 6,964 ballots were cast.

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