UNION CITY -- Supporters of the New Haven school district's proposed parcel tax cried foul Wednesday, saying some ballots weren't counted as the measure was defeated in an agonizingly close mail-in election.
The tax, Measure B, garnered 7,851 votes, or 66.4 percent, according to unofficial results issued Wednesday afternoon by the Registrar of Voters Office. It required two-thirds of the vote, or 66.7 percent, to pass.
If 28 of the 11,818 people who cast their ballots had voted "yes" instead of "no" -- or if an additional 83 people had voted "yes" without any additional "no" votes -- the measure would have been approved.
Campaign Chairman Richard Valle said the measure's supporters are not giving up yet, adding that the registrar's office was supposed to pick up ballots at the Union City post office at 8 p.m. Tuesday, but they actually were taken at 6 p.m. The remaining ballots were mailed and will arrive in the next day or two, he said.
"We're saying if they're received, they should be counted," Valle said.
Valle also said there are 34 "contended" ballots that have not been counted, and that the campaign may ask for a recount.
"It's still in play -- it's not over," he said. "All we're saying is, please count every ballot."
Guy Ashley, spokesman for the registrar's office, said he couldn't confirm that there are 34 "contended" ballots or that the ones at the post office were picked up early.
"We've counted all
The registrar's office normally audits 1 percent of the ballots, but because this election is so small, officials will audit all of them. They expect to certify the election Thursday, Ashley said.
The preliminary results, announced Tuesday night, left the tax measure about 1 percent short of the required majority. Still, supporters were hopeful that it would edge ahead after the registrar's office counted what turned out to be more than 700 ballots that had been dropped off at sites around the city through Tuesday.
The percentage increased, but not enough.
"I'm pretty upset," teachers union President Charmaine Kawaguchi said, adding that she hopes the people who voted "no" realize the impact it will have on schools, and that campaign volunteers want to ensure all ballots are counted.
"We knew it was going to be very close -- it's very difficult to get two-thirds. To not have all the votes counted is what's causing us the most grief."
The $180-per-parcel tax would raise about $3 million a year for the cash-strapped district, which is facing layoffs and other cuts, including raising K-3 class sizes to 30-to-1, reducing work days, eliminating the adult education program, and eliminating funding for extracurricular and co-curricular programs.
New Haven, which includes schools in Union City and part of south Hayward, faces a $10 million budget shortfall next year if state tax extensions fail or never make it to the ballot and Measure B officially is defeated. The district's annual budget has shrunk from $113 million to $99 million in the past three years.
District officials said the tax is essential to help maintain after-school activities and minimize class-size increases and school-year reductions.
"It's very clear that a majority of voters in our district understand the funding difficulties that public education is facing and were willing to reach into their own pockets to help," Superintendent Kari McVeigh said in a statement. "If indeed it is true that we fell just short of the supermajority we needed to pass the measure, that's extremely unfortunate because the cuts that the state is forcing us to make are very real, and they're going to have a very real impact on our children."
McVeigh also thanked Valle, Kawaguchi and the other volunteers who worked on the campaign.
"I don't know -- maybe a miracle," Kawaguchi said when asked what the next step could be. "Barring that it's not going to be school as we know it at New Haven. It's not going to be good for the kids. "... This is going to have a devastating effect on us."