Montezuma County said a resounding “no” to new taxes for education Tuesday, and elected a few new school board candidates along the way.
Every tax question on the 2011 ballot failed by a wide margin in the county, indicating county residents are not yet willing to loosen their purse strings, regardless the reason.
The ballot issues prompted a large voter turnout, with a nearly 54 percent participation rate, a 257 percent increase from the participation rate in 2009, which recorded an anemic rate of only 21 percent.
“The election was wonderful,” said Montezuma County Clerk Carol Tullis in a phone interview Wednesday. “The turnout was phenomenal for this kind of election in an off year. It was really well voted. The election went smoothly and was one of the easier ones we've dealt with.”
Despite the turnout, the results were grim for education supporters hoping for additional funding for buildings and to backfill budgets.
Southwest Open School's $3.4 million bond question, Referendum 3A, was voted down 2,322 to 1,812, 56 percent to 44 percent. The bond would have matched a $7.4 million grant from the Colorado Department of Education's Building Excellent Schools Today program, awarded for a campus overhaul.
County voters residing in the Mancos Re-6 school district said no to Referendum 3B, a $276,000 mill levy designed to fill gaps in education funding. The vote was 518, 60 percent, to 341, 40 percent.
State ballot question Proposition 103 also failed locally, as well as at the state level. The proposition, which asked voters to approved increases in state sales and income tax for a period of five years for education funding, was shot down in the county 3,654 votes, 60 percent, to 2,466 votes, 40 percent.
In Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1, voters elected two new members to the board of education, and returned two incumbents to their seats. All newly elected members will serve a four-year term on the local board.
In Director District C, stay-at-home mom Beth Howell defeated Corey Veach, a local rancher, by 26 points, 2,133, 63 percent, to 1,235, 37 percent. Howell said she is eager to begin work on the seven-member board.
“I'm really excited,” said Howell, in a phone interview Wednesday morning. “I'm hopeful I can do a good job for our kids and the community and the teachers. I'm excited we are getting a new board and we can start from scratch and hopefully make our school a better place for our kids.”
Local business man and former Southwest Open School board member Pete Montano came out the winner in Director District E, a closely contested contest. Montano beat Becky Stephens, Re-1's director of counseling services by just 68 votes, and third-place finisher Heath Elliot, owner of Lonnie's Glass, by 97 votes. The totals were Montano, 1,211 votes, 35 percent; Stephens, 1,143 votes, 33 percent; Elliott, 1,114 votes, 32 percent.
“There was support across the board for all three candidates,” said Montano Wednesday morning in a phone interview. “I feel like I've got to prove I was the right choice for the district. I've certainly got my work cut out for me.”
Two-term incumbent Tim Lanier, a farmer from the Pleasant View area, defeated former teacher Morgan Allsup to retain the seat for Director District G. Lanier captured 66 percent of the vote, 2,016 votes, while Allsup received 34 percent, 1,032 votes.
Incumbent Brian Demby will also return to the board. Demby was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board in 2009 and was not challenged in this year's election. Demby received 2,736 votes.
The new board will begin work on Tuesday, Nov. 15. One of the first issues the board will face is the appointment of a director for District A. The seat was vacated by former board member Diane Fox due to health reasons and no one filed paperwork to run for the seat in the election. Letters of interest for the position will be accepted until Nov. 28.
“The board will review all the letters of interest then interview everyone who is interested,” said board secretary Linda Diffendaffer. “We will start the interviews on Dec. 13.”
Letters of interest may be sent to Board of Education, Post Office Drawer R, Cortez.
School board members were also elected for Dolores School District Re-4a and Mancos School District Re-6.
In Dolores, voters selected John Kelly, Vangi McCoy and Deanna Truelsen to take seats on the board. The results were: Truelsen, 669 votes, 26 percent; Kelly, 650 votes, 25 percent; McCoy, 513 votes, 20 percent; Travis Anderson, 309 votes, 12 percent; Stanson Mannis, 251 votes, 10 percent; Gary Schwarzkopf, 220 votes, 8 percent.
In Mancos, Chris kloster was awarded a two-year term in an uncontested race with 621 votes. Wesley Rivera, Monty Guiles and Beverly Humiston were all given four-year terms on the board. The results were: Guiles, 574 votes, 34 percent; Rivera, 569 votes, 34 percent; Humiston, 531 votes, 32 percent.
Reach Kimberly Benedict at firstname.lastname@example.org.