Bond measure considered for voter approval by high school district

By Marsha Sutton

Staff Writ

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A facilities workshop held Jan. 18 presented San Dieguito Union High School District board members with the latest findings of a Facilities Task Force formed in December 2008 to explore facilities needs for the district for the next 50 years.

At the meeting, board members gave cautious approval to consider a bond measure to bring before voters in 2012 to fund some or all of the projects. The district will now move forward “with a planning process over the next nine months that will culminate in a “go/no go” decision for a November 2012 bond levy,” said SDUHSD superintendent Ken Noah, emphasizing that no decision has yet been made to proceed with the bond measure.

Noah said trustees “will exercise significant discrimination in determining precisely what should be presented to voters, both in projects and cost, if the decision to place a bond on the ballot is made.”

The need for more dollars has been driven by the state’s severe cuts to education in recent years, as well as diminishing developer fees, deteriorating facilities and the district’s stated desire to provide equity for students at each of the district’s schools.

School districts, Noah said, must prepare a summary of the projects proposed for expenditures of General Obligation bonds and are restricted from using the money to offset general fund operating costs. A bond, he said, would be specifically for school facilities and capital improvements.

A parcel tax, by contrast, can be used for any educational or operational expense, he said, which could include salaries, benefits, teaching positions, supplies, equipment and facilities. Both, however, result in an increase in property taxes.

Passage of a bond measure requires 55 percent of voter approval, while a parcel tax requires a two-thirds vote, making a parcel tax harder to pass. But because there is a lower threshold for passage of a G.O. bond, a community-based, citizens’ oversight committee is required to monitor the allocation of bond money and ensure that bond proceeds are spent according to the intent of the measure, Noah said. Parcel taxes have no such requirement.

Noah further differentiated between the two, saying that most parcel taxes are from four to seven years in length, while G.O. bonds generally result in a tax levy over decades, resulting in a lower annual cost to the taxpayer but for a longer period of time.

The district, Noah said, is not recommending or considering a parcel tax.

Noah said each site will now form a planning group to review the work that’s being proposed for that site, to determine if the earlier assumptions still hold and if there are new considerations that warrant refinement of the site plan.

“Once we’re completed with that, we’ll have a better sense of what the real cost of a bond would be that we would consider submitting,” Noah said.

The district will also consider whether there is sufficient community support for a bond measure. And if California Gov. Jerry Brown is able to extend temporary taxes to address the deficit crisis,

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