Voters appeared reluctant to approve the largest school bond in Napa Valley Unified School District history after the polls closed Tuesday night.
The returns as of 10 p.m. for Measure H, authorizing $269 million in school bonds, showed 51.92 percent in favor, 48.08 percent opposed with nearly all precincts (133 of 138) reported.
Measure H needed 55 percent approval of voters to pass.
NVUSD Superintendent Patrick Sweeney wasn’t willing to admit defeat after seeing the initial vote count shortly after 8 p.m. But he wasn’t overly optimistic either.
“The first results are a little disappointing,” said Sweeney outside the Measure H campaign headquarters.
The campaign’s political consultant, Bonnie Moss, said: “It’s not looking good.”
“The idealist in me wants to believe that [the results will turn around],” said Moss, “and the pragmatist in me wants to keep my feet on the ground and manage accordingly.”
Moss noted that other ballot measures in Napa County were losing as well.
“People are in a bad mood,” said Moss.
Prior to the first results being released, district officials were optimistic. They even had champagne on hand at the Measure H headquarters.
“We think we had a good message, and we’re positively hopeful” about the election results, said Elizabeth Emmett, NVUSD’s director of communications and community engagement, about an hour before polling ended Tuesday evening.
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NVUSD’s Board of Trustees placed Measure H on the June ballot to help finance what the district says is $475 million in needed new construction and repairs. It would authorize an annual property tax of up to $60 per $100,000 of assessed value, though the school district estimates the tax will be $39.
Its facilities master plan, the most costly in NVUSD history, grew larger after the August 2014 earthquake, which revealed three local elementary schools sitting atop the West Napa Fault that need rebuilding or relocating.
Earthquake-related repairs and construction account for more than $100 million of the district’s master plan.
Supporters for Measure H emphasized the seismic and safety needs of local schools to garner support among voters in Napa, American Canyon and Yountville.
The “yes” campaign, orchestrated by the group Safe Schools for Napa Valley Unified and led by Oakland-based campaign consulting firm CliffordMoss, raised nearly $140,000 as of May 21. Many of the largest contributions came from construction and engineering companies.
The fundraising helped finance mailers, phone calls and yard signs in favor of Measure H.
The campaign also garnered support from local political and community leaders. American Canyon Mayor Leon Garcia and others regularly went door-to-door throughout the county’s second largest city to push the “Yes on H” message with voters.
Anti-tax advocates opposed Measure H, as well as the June ballot’s Measure Y for a new county jail and Measure AA for Bay Area wetlands, calling for no new taxes across the board. The opposition largely relied on lawn signs and letters to the editor to promote their message.
The $269 million school bond was considerably more than the school district’s previous bond measure, Measure G in 2006 for $183 million, then the largest in NVUSD history.
In addition to paying for seismic improvements, Measure H is intended to help cover the cost of replacing hundreds of aging portable classroom buildings used throughout the school district, according to NVUSD officials. It also would finance school safety measures, such as fences around campuses, and IT infrastructure upgrades.