By Tim Hunt
Pleasanton school trustees move toward a school bondUploaded: Feb 2, 2016
Pleasanton school trustees took a necessary first step toward consideration of putting a school facilities bond before the voters.
Trustees directed staff to work with consultants to develop a survey to weigh public opinion on a bond measure. The staff has estimated that $500 million could be spent updating and improving facilities. That’s one hunk of change considering voters passed a $69.8 bond measure in 1997. It’s nearly 20 years later, but the cost of money has not increased seven-fold in that time.
Given that parcel tax measures failed twice during the recession, the trustees will need to put forward an excellent argument to convince voters to invest. It will be most interesting to see the breakdown per $100,000 of assessed value to calculate the impact on property taxes.
The bond payments will vary according to assessed valuation as opposed to a parcel tax that is a flat amount whether it is a modest single-family home or a Class A office building. The owners of commercial property as well as those folks who own expensive homes in Ruby Hill and other affluent pockets will pay the majority of the bond if it passes.
The big difference now is at the state level where the matching money from state bonds has been expended. School advocates have qualified a $9 billion school bond for the November ballot. State voters have not considered an education construction bond measure since 2006. The governor, while not taking a firm position, has not backed it, arguing that the program needs to be reformed. The prior program matched local dollars so the state picked up half of the cost.
That program worked well because school districts do not have any margin to set aside enough money from operating fund to cover major capital costs. The state has played a major role in capital projects for decades and needs to step back into that role.
Looking across Interstate 580, you can see the challenges that the Dublin district is facing with student enrollment far exceeding estimates on the eastside where schools are overcrowded and the district is working to build another school. The challenge of building a new school means having developers pay all of the cost or passing a bond to match developer funds with local taxpayers’ money. That can be a steep climb to convince residents elsewhere in the city that the bond is in their best interest.
San Ramon has faced a similar challenge in the Dougherty Valley where enrollment far out-stripped the estimates in a master-planned development that was as well thought out as any I have seen.
This will be a very interesting year with the November ballot because there likely will be a many measures competing for dollars and public attention.