Mesa County voters appeared to reject a $179.5 million School District 51 bond measure Tuesday night that would have replaced Grand Junction High School and provided improvements to Central, Fruita Monument and Palisade high schools.
Unofficial results as of 9 p.m. Tuesday showed that 53% voted against Ballot Measure 4A, with 47% in support of the measure.
If the measure had passed, it would have raised residential property taxes within the district’s boundaries by a total of $25.3 million annually to pay off the bond and the interest. That would have increased taxes on a $300,000 home in its boundaries by $80 per year or $6.67 per month.
“The need is still there, the work still needs to be done,” Yes on 4A Campaign Manager Nick Allan told a disappointed crowd at a watch party at the Mesa Valley Education Association. “It’s not over, so we’ll keep going.”
In other District 51 matters, school board members Doug Levinson in District A and Paul Pitton in District B were both re-elected to four-year terms Tuesday. Both men ran unopposed.
Supporters of 4A crammed the MVEA office Tuesday night and waited nearly an hour after polls closed at 7 p.m. to see the first wave of results. The room full of Grand Junction High School staff, school board members and campaign supporters did not hide their disappointment upon seeing the numbers.
“I’m not a good loser on this,” School District 51 Board member John Williams said. “I don’t think there is a reason to be gracious. The kids lost tonight. The staff lost. We should be ashamed of ourselves. The community ought to be ashamed.”
A press release from the district Tuesday thanked the voters who supported the measure and stated that the district would continue to emphasize student safety.
“While the hope for passage of 4A ends here, the need for a new, safer Grand Junction High School and remodeling projects that would have made Central, Palisade and Fruita Monument high school more secure for years to come does not,” the release read. “In the meantime, District 51 remains committed to keeping students safe, emphasizing mental health and social-emotional health and making schools a secure, welcoming place for students and staff.”
Superintendent Diana Sirko echoed the statement and, through tears, addressed supporters after the results came through.
“Our kids need this and I’m a little blown away that our community did not realize that,” she said.
The question was the second time since 2017 that Mesa County voters were asked to approve a bond for School District 51. That year, voters approved a $118.5 million bond measure and $6.5 million mill levy override to pay for a new middle school, repairs and upgrades to several schools, two new gymnasiums, new technology and security upgrades. It also included $5 million for improvements at Grand Junction High School. Had 4A passed, that $5 million would have been put toward the new building.
The mill levy added five school days to the district’s calendar, paid for new curriculum, increased the maintenance budget and added technology support
Prior to 2017, the district last saw a bond measure approved in 2004 when voters approved a $109 million bond.
Yes on 4A Campaign Chairman Dan Prinster thanked everyone who spent time knocking on doors and raising money for the cause. He said supporters will have to learn from this and that there will be another ask on a future ballot.
“We have to figure out how to convince the community that the largest community between Denver and Salt Lake City deserves a good high school,” Prinster said.