News

Board of Education discusses possible bond measure, leans toward November ballot

Resident survey shows 55 percent approval

After several heated forums about a possible school facilities bond, San Ramon Valley Unified's Board of Education met Tuesday morning to discuss the realities of implementing a measure to improve school infrastructure.

Although the bond amount has yet to be determined, the district has identified a list of potential modernization and capital projects, including cost-saving projects such as solar panel installation, that amount to more than $299 million across 17 schools. Modernization includes replacement of aging roofs and HVAC systems, expanded digital bandwidth and wireless access, security upgrades and energy efficiency upgrades.

The board also received results of a voter survey conducted in January to assess community opinion about the measure. EMC Research interviewed 600 residents telephonically, asking random groups to determine the feasibility of a bond measure at $190 and $260 million.

"With the current economy, rising tax aversion and a belief that the schools are already in excellent shape all equal a challenging environment in which to pass a bond measure," said EMC's Sara LaBatt, adding that surveys showed residents support the measure at a 55 percent threshold with little different between the $190 and $260 million marks.

The bond is expected to cost property owners between $20 and $30 per $100,000 assessed valuation and be paid back over 25 years. The facilities bond would be the third such bond passed by San Ramon Valley voters in 14 years. Measure D, a $70 million bond from 1998, will be paid off in 2018 and the $260 million Measure A bond passed in 2002 should be paid off by 2027. The 2002 bond was augmented by over $90 million in state matching funds and over half a billion dollars in developer funds.

"There is not very much movement in the vote after hearing information. (Resident's) minds may be largely made up on new taxes," LaBatt continued. "Accountability measures and local control are more compelling elements than what the measure will fund."

While most residents surveyed believe that the district can be trusted to properly manage tax dollars, 85 percent said the quality of school facilities are excellent or good an 61 percent believe there is great or some need for additional funding.

"They're really not seeing a pressing need at this time for money in the district," LaBatt said. "There's not a lot of wiggle room, but there's enough. There's some potential here but certainly not an overwhelming positive."

Women and voters ages 40-64 are the most supportive of the measure. Seventy percent of Democrats would vote for the bond, while 62 percent of parents surveyed agreed with the bond and 51 percent of residents who are not SRVUSD parents would also vote for it. However, 46 percent of survey takers said they would vote for the bond measure's expected cost.

"We feel very strongly that going through the process of sharing the story on how you need this money as a district, to show that accountability, will be really key in this measure," TBWB Strategies' Sarah Stern said, recommending November 2012 as a realistic vote date.

Stern and LaBatt recommended that the district conduct a tracking survey to retest key measure components for a November election date. The district also needs to finalize the tax rate, its 75-word statement for voters, update survey data and complete the project list after community feedback.

To that end, the board decided to create a superintendent's exploratory committee to look at prioritizing projects and assess how best to let the public know why a facilities bond is necessary.

"The public doesn't feel a deep sense of urgency regarding facility improvements, expansion except perhaps in the Dougherty Valley. They think we're doing great and ask 'What's our needs here?' I think it's, ironically, one of the greatest challenges we have," said Superintendent Steven Enoch. "There continues to be financial fatigue brought on by the great recession. The community loves its schools but they are cautions about incurring additional debt at this time without better understanding of the need."

Enoch said the Board of Education would discuss restructuring some of the bond debt to prevent spiking and possibly incorporate the new bond without significantly increasing the current tax rate. All members expressed concern about the urgent need to inform residents about necessary upgrades and modernizations before a June or, most likely, a November election.

"I think November is very doable, but I don't think that that's very much time," said Board Clerk Rachel Hurd. "I think that we need to realize that the work to plant the seeds of needůmeans the district communicating these needs is going to go a long way. In the next four to six to eight weeks, we're fine-tuning the project list. From spring break on, we're making the need case."

Although the district's Facilities Advisory Committee advocated for the measure to appear on the June 5 ballot (November 2012 would create a "noisy" election among other things, said Committee Chair Chris Kenber), board members cautiously agreed that potentially placing the bond on a November ballot would give the district more time to specify projects and timelines.

"There is absolutely no question that we have a need for more facilities in this district.

Truth be told, there is no ideal timing for an election right now. But the bottom line is we're going to have to spend money on some of these facilities and if we don't have money to do it, we're going to have to take money from the general fund," said Boardmember Denise Jennison. "2014 in my mind seems too far off to wait because we don't know what to expect with education funding. Considering the way we've been trending for the last couple years, I'm not overly optimistic."

The Board of Education will make an official decision during its Feb. 21 meeting. The public, which during four community forums and in surveys was split on the merits of the bond, is invited to speak during public comment.

Comments

Posted by George, a resident of Alamo
on Feb 15, 2012 at 7:04 am

If it makes you feel better, go ahead, put it on the ballot... but it doesn't stand a snowball's chance of passing. Spending other peoples' money is sooo easy! The schools would be better advised to put their scholarly creativity to work to make do with what they have. Perhaps paying teachers this year for furlough days from last year wasn't such a good idea?


Posted by SRVHS Parent, a resident of San Ramon Valley High School
on Feb 15, 2012 at 8:32 am

so, lets see, most people really don't want it, but the board still feels compelled to try to spend our money anyway. Sounds like a plan to me. Just shame all of us into letting our decrepit schools continue their miserable decline.


Posted by Voter, a resident of Danville
on Feb 15, 2012 at 8:32 am

This will NEVER pass! VOTE NO!


Posted by keith, a resident of Danville
on Feb 15, 2012 at 8:57 am

Just say NO !!!


Posted by LMP, a resident of Danville
on Feb 15, 2012 at 8:58 am

What about living within your means is so hard to understand by public agencies? I'd vote for getting rid of tenure and unions, paying the good teachers more and cutting back on administration. There's enough money, just spend it properly. My household will vote "no" it this comes up in November.


Posted by EV, a resident of Danville
on Feb 15, 2012 at 9:49 am

No new taxes. We will vote "No".


Posted by Klb, a resident of Danville
on Feb 15, 2012 at 10:36 am

How much did we already spend for the solar panels at many of the schools that cost millions of dollars and we will have to replace them long before they would actually have any cost benefit? Agree with earlier comment about giving the money back from the so called furlough days. What a joke. They will never stop. Just say NO!!


Posted by Me, too, a resident of Danville
on Feb 15, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Like everyone else, I will vote no to any and all bond measures. Learn to live within your means, SRVUSD...


Posted by Dave, a resident of Danville
on Feb 16, 2012 at 5:53 am

We are having to reconsider signing our kids up for soccer next fall to an increase in registration fees, we are taking a summer vacation where we are driving instead of flying due to the cost of airline tickets and other "belt tightening" measures like that in this very tough economy. I certainly expect the same of others around me who may be feeling the squeeze, with the SRVUSD being no exception.
I have no problem telling them to go back to their budget and find the $$ someplace else. It is not coming from our household.


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