The Pleasanton Unified School District Board of Trustees deliberated Tuesday evening whether community members would support a new bond measure to extend the revenue stream currently by supported previous bonds.
The trustees' discussion focused on the district's facility improvement needs, the lack of funding beyond the Measure I1 bond passed in 2016 and district administration's idea for a new facilities bond measure, and they are expected to decide soon whether to pursue public polling to gauge voter support for a $120 million bond measure on the ballot next year.
District officials said a new bond measure would present PUSD "an opportunity to fund approximately $120 million" for possible future projects like revamping Vintage Hills Elementary, building a career and technical education campus, and general facility and equipment upgrades.
In the preliminary discussions in recent months, including Tuesday night, district leaders are equating the new bond measure to a tax extension because the tax rate for property owners ($20 per $100,000 of assessed valuation) would be the same as the rate owners are paying now related to previous bond measures in 1988 and 1997, which is set to wane after 2020.
Last year, the trustees approved the district's Facilities Master Plan, which estimates about $846 million is needed to complete projects at all 15 campuses.
Some are already covered by the $270 million Measure I1 bond from 2016, but about three dozen other remain unfunded, including $6.34 million for traffic mitigation related to redesigning the Donlon Elementary School property to split it among a kindergarten-to-third-grade campus and a new school for fourth and fifth grades.
The concept of a new bond measure was first floated last year, but trustees at the time questioned whether it was fair to approach voters after Measure I1 passing just two years earlier and projects like building a new elementary school not being completed.
"There was a bit of hesitation and we needed to see some projects get started and so we took a step back and we really focused on getting those things amped up," Superintendent David Haglund said. "They really were already started, but we needed to be more overt in how we talked about them, in terms of the scheduling so people could see that, yes, those things are in the pike and they are coming."
"The purpose of (Tuesday) night was to recap what we're doing under the bond and what needs have been identified," district spokesperson Patrick Gannon told the Weekly.
Voters approved Measure I1 bond, which taxes homeowners $49 per $100,000 of their assessed property value every year, in November 2016. Measure I1 revenue is restricted to spending on repairing and upgrading local classrooms and facilities and buying new equipment; none may be used for administrative salaries.
There is just over $145.5 million left in funding to allocate for projects on the Measure I1 list. Community polling for public feedback about the proposed bond is expected to be discussed at the board's next regular meeting on March 26.
Another notable portion of the meeting covered recent budget changes, including $4 million in budget reductions to afford a recent 2.5% compensation increase for employees, during a second interim budget report. Pending another state budget revision this spring, officials say more adjustments may be needed.
Special education contributions in district schools have increased by $1 million and local revenues have grown by the same amount because the district is in receipt of a partial insurance claim from the Harvest Park Middle School fire.
Earlier this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his 2019-20 state budget proposal, including a one-time $3 billion payment to CalSTRS from the general fund to pay down pension debt. The payment is expected to address rising pension costs and reduce the out-year contribution rate by half a percentage point.
However, the district warns that if additional cost of living adjustment and STRS rate reduction recommendations in Newsom's budget "do not materialize, the district will need to make approximately $670,000 in reductions before 2020/21."
In other business
* The trustees also unanimously approved several contracts for district schools, including one to rebuild the fire-damaged library at Harvest Park Middle School. Last summer, a blaze damaged the library as well as the campus-wide low-voltage systems. A 40-foot-by-48-foot portable has served since then as a temporary library.
District officials recommend rebuilding the existing library with insurance funds but not expanding the facility. School administration and a design team met recently for project scoping.
To stay on track, the district will need to rebuild in two phases, demolition and construction. The first phase would start this summer and continue with construction during the next school year. To minimize impact during school hours, construction on weekdays would start at 2 p.m. and end around 10 p.m.
* Fiber optic and site network upgrades throughout the entire district were also approved; last year Amador Valley High School served as the pilot phase site and received new copper cabling and new Power over Ethernet (PoE) ports, which grant access to security cameras, clocks, bells and voice over IP (VOIP) telephones.
The $4.5 million project will use Measure I1 funds for upgrades at the remaining schools to support a 40gig network backbone that's expected to increase speed and bolster stability and security.
Work will start this spring at three schools -- Foothill High, Walnut Grove Elementary and Pleasanton Middle schools -- and continue at other campuses until the end of next year.
Lydiksen Elementary School is the only campus not included in the project and will receive its upgrades when the planned rebuild breaks ground at an undetermined time.