Local school district doesn’t plan to build any news schools, but does hope to pay for some repairs and upgrades at West Sacramento campuses
— NEWS-LEDGER — JULY 2, 2014 —
By Steve Marschke
West Sacramento voters will be asked to approve a $49.8 million school bond on the November 4 general election ballot.
If the bond measure earns the required 55 percent voter approval, it will help fund the local school district’s laundry list of needed capital improvements –possible items such as fire systems, wheelchair access ramps, heating and ventilation units, windows, paving and security systems.
A motion to place the bond on the November ballot passed 4-0 at last Thursday’s meeting of the Washington Unified School District board of trustees. The action needed all four “yes” votes to take effect – and board member Alicia Cruz overcame her initial reluctance to support a 2014 bond and eventually provided the needed fourth vote.
Board member Adam Menke was absent from the meeting. Cruz joined fellow trustees Katie Villegas, Mary Leland and Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez in supporting the bond.
Board member Mary Leland was the first of the group to speak up after hearing a staff presentation on the proposed school bond. She noted that the bond would pay for campus safety measures and “ADA,” or “Americans with Disabilities Act,” compliance.
“I’ve been very anxious to see this on the agenda,” commented Leland at the meeting. “The community is willing to support this bond, and safety is very highly rated on their list. . . In addition, we’re not going to be able to provide career and college readiness if our facilities aren’t up to date.”
“I admit I as on the fence, going back and forth wondering if this was the right time,” added board colleague Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez.
She called for a “carefully thought-out” bond expenditure plan and warned that “it’s important to realize the bond will not fix everything.” The bond money would pay for about a quarter of the district’s capital improvements costs, said Kirby-Gonzalez.
Trustee Katie Villegas, who as a private citizen headed up a previous WUSD school bond measure, recalled that running a bond campaign is “a ton of work.” That bond paid for the new River City High School campus.
“I literally ran that high school bond day to day from my garage,” she said. “We’re at a time now where we need to make some investments, particularly in the north area, in our aging schools.”
Alicia Cruz, chairing the meeting, initially dissented.
“I don’t feel this is the right time for a bond,” she said, earning a bout of polite persuasion from her colleagues on the board.
Her colleagues seemed to agree that waiting for the higher turnout of a 2016 presidential election might give the bond a better chance to pass.
“But can our district wait that much time?” asked Villegas. At one point, Villegas added:
“This isn’t for building a new high school or anything. This is basic stuff. Have you been to Bryte (Elementary School) lately? It’s horrible.”
Kirby-Gonzalez spoke for the majority when she suggested the board simply vote to put the bond on the November ballot, and then see what West Sacramento voters have to say about it.
“I would argue that we just put it out there,” she said. “We put it out there and let them make a choice.”
Cruz detailed one of her objections, which was to the lengthy list of possible projects that bond money could be spent on.
“What scares me is the list of items the bond will cover,” said Cruz. “I think it’s voluminous. I don’t think it’s specific.”
But despite having “that feeling in your gut that says this is not the thing,” concluded Cruz, she eventually agreed to provide the needed fourth vote.
“Because I am part of a team and I know the district needs this,” she told her colleagues.
The per-household cost of the bond has been estimated downward. The bond resolution capped the cost at $60 per year for every $100,000 in property value, but the board was advised last week that the actual cost would be about $39 annually for every $100,000 in property value. A $300,000 home, therefore, would be taxed around $117 per year over the life of the bond repayment.
The school district conducted a public survey in February to gauge public support for a 2014 bond.
“Although the results were positive, it was clear that a bond campaign would be needed to ensure the public was aware of the need for facility funding that exceeded both (WUSD’s) and the State’s capacity,” noted a district staff report.
The community has a mixed record of supporting school bond measures.
In other business, the school board was briefed on the school district’s budget. The big picture view of the budget is that WUSD is recovering from several years of deficit spending as the State of California’s finances improve. The local district is, to some degree, repairing and rebuilding programs.
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