Measure K heads to photo finish

By Tina Richards

The outcome of the school bond measure raising property taxes to modernize/refurbish the four high schools in the Orange Unified School District is still undecided as votes continue to be counted. 

The OC registrar of voters reported that the final result may not be available until Nov. 15.  

Not so fast

Election night returns indicted that Measure K had been narrowly defeated, falling shy of the required 55 percent “super majority” by just 1.1 percent. Because the measure would have increased taxes, it required more than a simple majority vote; it needed the approval of 55 percent of voters, plus one. 

As provisional, vote-by-mail and paper ballots continued to be counted, the “yes” vote inched closer (54.1 percent) to the needed supermajority, giving bond supporters hope that it might pass after all. 

Regardless of the final tally, Measure K has received more “yes” votes (23,128) than “no’s” (19,630).  The majority of voters are apparently willing to tax themselves to improve school facilities. But not everyone offered an opinion. Of the 105,980 registered voters in OUSD, only 42,785 (so far) cast a ballot.

Win/lose by a nose 

The hairbreadth difference between the “yes” and “no” votes is similar to that of two previous school bond measures that failed in 2008 and 2004. Advocates have historically had trouble conjuring a supermajority from an electorate that views the high cost and long-term payback of bond financing as just too much debt.  And, at $296 million, Measure K is one of the largest school bond issues ever proposed in OC.

Passionate supporters, however, did their best to convince OUSD voters that this bond is the best fix for the aging high schools.  “Yes on K” signs were posted everywhere in the district; “No on K” signs were taken down as soon as they appeared.  Appeals went out over social media, at neighborhood gatherings and through a deluge of campaign mailers that showed up in mailboxes almost daily.  There was no organized opposition.