UPDATE: The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters officially certified the results of the Palo Alto special parcel tax election on Tuesday, May 12. A total of 28,759 ballots were processed and counted in both Palo Alto and a Campbell Union School District special election, with 33.47 percent of eligible registered voters casting ballots, according to the registrar.
With a wide margin of 77 percent "yes" votes and all ballots counted, the passage of Palo Alto schools parcel tax Measure A is official.
Reached at a "Yes on A" campaign party just after the unofficial results were first released by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters on election night, campaign co-chairs Nana Chancellor and Sara Woodham, in tears, said the overwhelming support is exciting, reassuring -- and a little surprising.
They and a group of about 30 volunteers spent Monday and Tuesday calling more than 2,000 voters, sending emails and posting on Facebook to corral last-minute support for the new $758-per-parcel tax, which if approved by two-thirds of voters would begin on July 1 and last six years with 2 percent annual increases.
In addition to the $13 million generated by the tax each year, the proposed $120 increase would provide $2.3 million to support investments in student health and wellness efforts, academic supports for struggling students and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) instruction.
On Election Day, Chancellor even drove to several seniors' homes to pick up their ballots and drop them off at the post office.
"We were so nervous about the disruption that it would cause if this did not pass," she said.
The "Yes on A" camp was facing what now seems to be a vocal minority of people who viewed voting down the tax as a way to send a message to school district leadership during a year of crisis. Others had expressed opposition to the increased funding for a district much more financially healthy than in years past. But only 4,073 voters cast a "no" vote (22.66 percent), compared to the 13,903 in support as of the final count.
A total of 17,976 votes have been counted with 33.47 percent voter turnout, according to the county registrar. Ballots were accepted in person until 8 p.m. on Election Day, and the registrar continued to post daily updates as ballots came in via mail throughout the week.
"To have a significant turnout, to have such a favorable vote -- it just shows the level of support for our students, and I think also the belief in our mission," said Palo Alto Unified Superintendent Max McGee, reciting the district's mission of "nurturing curiosity, creativity and resilience, empowering every child to reach his or her fullest intellectual, social and creative potential."
"I hope that's resonated," McGee said. "Certainly this kind of support enables us to transform those words into actions."
Chancellor and Woodham said Tuesday they felt confident that the "yes" votes would continue to climb as the remaining ballots are counted.
"There are way more people that felt this way than not," Woodham said. "That to me is so incredibly reassuring as a community. We're ready to get past this, move on and focus on the things we need to focus on."
Palo Alto voters last approved a parcel tax increase in 2010 in the city's first mail-in special election. The six-year $589 tax passed with 79 percent support. That tax's 2 percent per year automatic escalator has brought the rate taxpayers currently pay to $638 per parcel.