WUSD looks at new school bond


‘Finishing’ RCHS, building career trade school campus are both being considered’

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

West Sacramento’s school district may ask local voters to approve new school bonds or parcel taxes a year from now. The money could be used to help finish the new River City High School campus, and build a career and technical education center elsewhere in West Sacramento.

“We do have some interest in taking a look at completing the high school, including a performing arts center,” Superintendent Dayton Gilleland told the News-Ledger yesterday. “Also a career technical education center. And we have roofs that need work throughout the district.”

  Gilleland said it was too early to talk about the dollar amounts Washington Unified School District might request from local voters. The school board will make some decisions on its shopping list and any bond or parcel tax request after the results of a new consultant’s study come in.

On Thursday, the board is scheduled to consider a contract (valued at around $20-30,000) with a consulting group called Solem & Associates. WUSD officials propose to hire the company to interview several hundred demographically-chosen voters and try to gauge their reaction to different proposals and “test a range of bond amounts that include the annual cost to a typical homeowner,” as the company’s initial proposal states.

The survey would ask voters about which potential projects on the district’s shopping list are important to them, and which campaign arguments (on both sides of a possible bond or tax campaign) might be most persuasive.

The consulting company says it recognizes that this is not an ideal economy in which to ask voters to pay more local taxes:

Voters “expect local districts to tighten their belts just as they’ve been doing with their personal finances,” said Solem’s proposal.

Local voters approved bonds to pay for the new high school that opened three years ago. But they saw cost estimates skyrocket, taking that project over $150 million – despite dropping one classroom wing and a planned performing arts center from the project. So how can WUSD now convince local voters to part with more money for the same project?

Gilleland – who became superintendent after the school was built – said that “trust” will help.
“We can’t turn the clock back,” said Gilleland. “We could establish (to the public) how the funds were utilized. I think we’ve established some trust in the school district.”

Building a career technical vocational facility is also important to the school board, and could be funded by new money from voters, he said.

“It could be a ‘magnet’ school that draws kids from the other campuses for part of the day,” Gilleland explained. The facility could help train kids who aren’t headed for a traditional college or university, and who instead are looking for services in fields such as biomedical services, engineering, communications, web design, health services or construction.

The career training campus might go at what’s currently the Bryte Elementary campus, after that kindergarten-through-second-grade school consolidates with Riverbank Elementary’s grade 3-8 campus.
When might voters see a ballot for a new parcel tax or school bond measure?

“We’re looking at the suitability of the November election a year from now,” answered Gilleland.

  Meanwhile, the district is also reevaluating its landholdings, and considering whether to hold, lease or sell WUSD real estate. The evaluation process follows a state-mandated procedure, involving formation of a special committee governed by rules of the education code.

The committee will look at WUSD’s real estate, examine enrollment projections, and make a report to the school board on what, if anything, to do.

“It’s just something we wanted to do on a periodic basis,” said Gilleland. “The layperson – and I count myself as one of those – would assume this is not a promising time to sell any surplus property.”

The so-called “7-11 Committee” meets Dec. 7 at 5:30 p.m. at Room 75 in the district office to continue its discussions of WUSD real estate.

The school board itself will convene at 6 p.m. on Thursday at city hall, 1110 West Capitol Avenue. Part of the agenda will deal with the proposed contract with Solem & Associates regarding a school bond and property tax survey.

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