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CAMPAIGN 2000 | LOCAL MEASURES

School Financing, Proposed Wal-Mart Hanging in Balance

Magnolia bond measure leads in early returns, while Huntington Beach voters favor construction of a discount store in their city.

March 08, 2000|ALEX MURASHKO and MEGAN GARVEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

From nearly $10 million to improve a small Anaheim school district to the fate of a Wal-Mart proposed for closed school grounds in Huntington Beach, several local initiatives were still being decided late Tuesday after large numbers of Orange County voters went to the polls.

A $9.7-million bond measure to improve aging schools in Anaheim's Magnolia School District, which serves 6,500 kindergartners through sixth-graders, did well in early returns late Tuesday. With more than a third of the votes counted, the initiative appeared to be garnering the two-thirds support it needed to pass. The measure would add about $25.27 a year per $100,000 of property value.

The school bond measure's passage would mean the Magnolia School District's board could make critical improvements to its more than 30-year-old schools.

"Our schools are at the point where they just need a lot of upgrading, and we'd like to get them ready for the 21st century," said Richard Turrentine, the district's assistant superintendent for resources and services. "If it doesn't pass, we're going to have to forgo making some of the improvements and our students would not have the same access to technology."

In Huntington Beach, plans to build a Wal-Mart at the closed Crest View school site on Talbert Avenue near Beach Boulevard faced a challenge in Measure I. But, in early returns, a substantial majority of voters were saying "no," effectively favoring construction of the store, which would bring money to local schools.

"It's about kids and community, and it beats the heck out of raising taxes," said Huntington Beach Mayor Pro Tem David Garofalo.

Nearby residents who argued that the large discount chain store had no business in their neighborhood had pushed the measure to block the store by rezoning the property from commercial to residential.

Those who favor the store, however, said Wal-Mart would bring the Ocean View School District $400,000 a year under terms of the 25-year lease agreement. That money could be used to modernize and fix schools, they argued.

The Huntington Beach City Council also sponsored an advisory vote, Measure J, which called for 50% of the sales tax income from Wal-Mart to be spent on projects such as neighborhood parks, bicycle trails and a new senior center. In early returns, voters appeared to favor earmarking the funds.

In another important local ballot initiative, Seal Beach voters were deciding the future of a Bixby Ranch Co. development with Measure M. With a small percentage of votes counted, residents appeared to be favoring a proposed shopping center at Seal Beach Boulevard and Lampson Avenue.

Residents living near the project site petitioned to block the shopping center and the traffic they said it would generate.

In Garden Grove, residents were voting on Measure H, an ordinance that sought to raise the city's tax on hotel and motel rooms from 10% to 13%. The measure was placed on the ballot in December by the City Council. With nearly one in three precincts tallied, voters appeared to be rejecting the tax increase.

In Mission Viejo, residents were set to finally answer the question: What kind of city hall do you want?

Measure K offered residents three choices for the future home of their municipal offices, ranging from leasing a 47,750-square-foot building for $107.5 million over the next 50 years to building a similar-sized structure on land the city owns for $57.7 million. In early returns, voters appeared to favor building on city grounds. Voters in Mission Viejo also appeared to favor Measure L, which proposed putting a maximum term on waste management franchises.

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Times Community News correspondent Andrew Wainer contributed to this report.

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