Solana Beach School District voters approve $105M bond measure


Voters strongly supported a $105 million bond measure to replace and upgrade Solana Beach School District facilities.

As of 10 a.m. on Nov. 9, there were approximately 620,000 mail and provisional ballots still to be counted throughout the county, but with all precincts counted, voters passed Measure JJ with nearly 66 percent of the vote. The measure received 6,655 “Yes” votes and 3,506 “No” votes.

“We are very appreciative of the support the community has shown for our schools, for our students,” Superintendent Terry Decker said.

Founded in 1925, Solana Beach School District has seven elementary schools and a child development center. In 2014, the district opened its seventh school, Solana Ranch Elementary School, in Pacific Highlands Ranch. Other schools, however, opened decades ago and need to be updated or completely replaced.

The bond will replace or upgrade outdated classrooms, science labs, libraries and school buildings; restore deteriorating roofs, plumbing and electrical systems; improve student safety and campus security; and provide students access to educational facilities, science and technology needed to prepare for high school, college and careers.

“Our community places a high value on education and wants to be sure our students have everything they need to be successful,” Decker said.

Under Proposition 39, general obligation bonds require a 55 percent voter approval and limit tax rates to $30 per $100,000 in assessed home value. Measure JJ represents an increase of $272 per year for the average homeowner in the Solana Beach School District.

To ensure transparency, Prop 39 requires an independent oversight committee of citizens. In addition, there are annual reports and audits that will come before the school board.

Following the certification of the election results, the district will have 60 days to establish the committee of citizens.

“We certainly recognize that we have a responsibility to ensure that the funds are managed effectively and they are used to improve the learning environments for our students,” Decker said. “It’s something we take very seriously.”

Solana Beach School District plans to start with the reconstruction of Skyline and the modernization of Solana Highlands.

Skyline was built in 1955 and modernized in 2000. The school opened just one year after the old Earl Warren Middle School across the street, which San Dieguito Union High School District is currently rebuilding with use of its Proposition AA funds, a general obligation bond that passed in 2012.

District staff plans to submit its plans for these projects to the Division of the State Architect this fall. The Division of State Architect provides design and construction oversight for K-12 schools, community colleges, and various other state-owned and leased facilities.

“We made the choice as a district to begin the planning process,” Decker said prior to the vote. “We’re investing upfront in the planning so that if the community supports us with a bond, we can move forward with construction.

“It puts our children into newer facilities just that much more quickly. It also helps to show our community that we’re very serious about making inroads on these needs and getting things done in a timely manner.”

The district would receive its first bond issuance in spring 2017.

If plans are approved by spring 2017, construction could begin in June 2017, with the new Skyline to open in fall 2018. Solana Highlands would be modernized over the summer of 2017, with most updates completed by fall 2018.

Meanwhile, the district would begin planning for its next round of projects in fall 2017.

The district would receive its second bond issuance in spring 2019. Funds would help redesign and reconstruct 45-year-old Solana Vista and modernize Solana Santa Fe.

“After that we’re into modernization and smaller projects,” Decker said.

A statewide $9 billion school construction bond called Proposition 51 was also on the ballot. The measure was leading 52.87 percent to 47.13 percent, according to election returns at 10 a.m. on Nov. 9.

With approval of this bond, school districts will be able to qualify for matching funds for facilities projects. Solana Beach School District will be eligible for $20 million in matching funds so its $105 million could turn into $125 million.

“That will extend our opportunities and just add to what we can do for schools around the district,” Decker said.