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FLORENCE — Florence Unified School District’s request for a $75 million bond issue wasn’t meeting with voter approval Tuesday night.

FUSD’s Prop. 449 was losing 58.2% (15,745 votes) to 41.8% (11,303 votes) in early returns. With an estimated 1,300 new students coming into Florence Unified School District in the next five years, administrators want to build middle schools adjacent to its three existing high school campuses.

The bond also would’ve helped the district stay current on technology, reliable buses and other capital needs. Superintendent Chris Knutsen said early returns looked encouraging for the state’s Prop 208 to fund schools, but not for FUSD’s bond.

In FUSD’s school board race, which has four write-in candidates running for three seats, no early returns were posted late Tuesday. Candidates are running to fill seats currently held by Bob Dailey, who is the only one seeking re-election, Katrina Solis and Jim Thomas.

Early returns also showed school propositions winning in Superior and Eloy but losing in Toltec.

Knutsen said a large percentage of retirees voted, “and we’re not ever going to do very well when that happens.” He continued that the pandemic has people concerned, and it’s hard to ask for extra help after students have just spent the first quarter of the school year online.

“I knew it was going to be a tough haul, but we wanted to roll the dice and see if we could get it done,” Knutsen said.

Middle schools would be a new concept for FUSD, which has built K-8 schools for the last 18 years. High-achieving middle schoolers, who now visit the high schools to study advanced science and math, would have easier access to honors programs.

By law, school bonds in Arizona may be used to buy or lease school property; for supplying schools with furniture, equipment and technology; for improving school grounds; for buying buses and other vehicles for transporting students; and for paying off debt already incurred for these purposes.

The bond issue would cost the owner of a $250,000 home in FUSD about $202 per year. The bonds would be paid off over a 24-year period so that future taxpayers would share in the cost.

FUSD voters last approved a $25 million bond issue in 2017, and that money paid for new school buses, student computers and other technology upgrades, security cameras and other security equipment on school campuses, track repairs and upgrades at the high schools, updated playgrounds at K-8 schools, an enlargement of the Fernando Ortega multipurpose building at Florence K-8 and other repairs and improvements.

Florence Unified School District Bond

Choice Votes %
Yes 15,504 41.70
No 21,676 58.30

Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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