Mary Snider has been elected to the Oro Valley Town Council, and it's a real achievement. The longtime community activist, synonymous with Project Graduation in Northwest high schools, was selected on a majority of town council ballots cast in the town's primary election last Tuesday.
Then, on Friday, the Oro Valley Town Council did the right thing, and named Snider to the vacancy left by Al Kunisch's resignation. Snider begins serving immediately. She's already been "serving," in fact, having attended meetings and budget retreats during this most important time of year for local governments, that of budget creation.
In making their decisions last week, Oro Valley voters turned out two longtime community servants, Mayor Paul Loomis and Councilman K.C. Carter, both of whom shall serve until June.
Those outcomes were not complete surprises. While both Loomis and Carter have ably served the community for years — and we are grateful for their tireless, often thankless work — the accumulation of opposition had become too much. A quiet prediction had Loomis finishing either first, or third, in the three-way race with Mike Zinkin and Satish Hiremath. And the voters — 41.5 percent of those registered, a very good turnout — have spoken. The people's word is always the final word.
Oro Valley people have three more critical choices ahead, picking between top vote-getter Zinkin and Hiremath for mayor, and choosing two council members from the field of Lou Waters, Joe Hornat, Don Emmons and Matthew Rabb.
On to May.
On that May ballot, Arizona voters are being asked to decide a really big question. Should we raise our sales taxes by 1 percent for three years, generating up to an estimated $1 billion a year to support K-12 schools and public safety?
Judging by the results in Marana Unified School District last week, any approval of the sales tax hike has an enormous mountain to climb.
Voters in MUSD have been supportive of their schools, but they soundly rejected the 15 percent budget override, a measure that would have generated another $3.1 million for MUSD schools each year. While turnout was less than 25 percent, the override lost by a wide margin, 57-43 percent. That outcome occurred even when the district told voters it would be able to cover the cost of the override through use of debt service funds for at least the first year and perhaps beyond, thereby nullifying a property tax increase.
No thanks, MUSD voters said. Of intrigue was the result from "early" and mailed ballots, where voters spoke loudly, 5,040-2,832, against the increase. Those who showed up at the polls supported the override, 1,712-1,165. The May election, incidentally, is at the polling place.
Marana schools are on spring break, and the fallout of last week's vote has yet to reach the desk tops. But there can be no mistake — MUSD is looking at very large reductions in its funding. It may need to slice $4 million, on an operating budget near $75 million. Or the sum could be closer to $16 million, if the May sales tax is defeated and the Legislature further trims its support for K-12 education. If those big cuts occur, full-day kindergarten, class sizes and extracurricular activities are going to be examined. Marana schools have cut plenty from their budgets these last two years, and there are no more cuts to take without affecting what happens in the classroom.
This sales tax campaign might "pit" public sector employees and those who don't want to pay more taxes. That'd be too bad, because the real question is what Arizona is going to do to generate revenue during very difficult economic times. If there's not enough money to provide services, people are going to suffer some consequence.