Pleasanton voters will decide next year whether to maintain current funding levels for Pleasanton Unified School District facilities after the Board of Trustees unanimously agreed Tuesday night to place a $323 million bond measure on the March 2020 election ballot.
First presented a year ago, revenue from the proposed bond would fund projects on the district's 2018 Facilities Master Plan, which has identified $1.1 billion of facilities needs and upgrades such as a career-tech high school or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) expansion, and new high school gyms.
The ballot measure will ask voters to authorize the issuance of $323 million in general obligation bonds "to upgrade/construct classrooms and facilities to support science, technology, engineering, math, arts/music and accommodate growing student enrollment; improve safety/security systems; replace aging roofs, plumbing/electrical/HVAC systems; and improve access for students with disabilities."
An estimated $21.3 million annually would be raised by the measure, which does not exempt seniors.
Property owners in the district would pay an annual tax rate of $43.10 per $100,000 of assessed value, if the bond measure passes, to maintain a similar tax rate as when two older bond measures expire next year.
Pleasanton voters also approved the $270 million Measure I1 bond in 2016, which when combined with the older bond measures taxes properties at a rate of $49 per $100,000 of assessed value. The second issuance and sale of $90 million in Measure I1 bonds took place this summer.
PUSD floated several possible bond pricetags earlier this year, at first suggesting $120 million before recently settling on the $323 million figure. More than 600 likely voters were polled a couple months ago about another bond amount for $150 million, in addition to $393 million. The survey reported about 55% of participants supported another parcel tax, the minimum required for passage in an election.
Some residents have criticized the district's previous financial decisions, such as spending $2 million of Measure I1 funds on 7,000 Chromebooks for students, and said they are opposed to paying another parcel tax while Measure I1 projects like the Lydiksen Elementary rebuild are still unfinished.
Parents expressed their support for the measure during public comment Tuesday night and complained that the existing performing arts and athletic facilities at their children's schools were outdated and "embarrassing" to use, particularly the Amador Valley High School gym.
Ben Breazeale, president of the Amador Valley Athletics Boosters, said he would back the measure, but "only if the bond prioritizes the Amador Valley gym."
"The gym is used much, much more than for athletics. Many times I have heard people say, 'Well, the gym is just athletics,' but it really isn't," Breazeale said. "I hope this bond measure passes, but I also hope that the Amador athletic facilities are given the highest priority if it does pass, and if it does, I will support it fully."
Soojin Hwang, president of the Harvest Park Boosters, echoed Breazeale's remarks.
"One thing that we need to be honest about is the lack of our facilities," Hwang said. "We have great teachers, great students and great parents and a great community. We really need to ensure that we have facilities to adequately supply what we need, and so I would really hope that you would consider approving this bond measure."
Trustee Mark Miller said he was glad the project options for the bond were narrowed "to a list that's realistic," and with "reasonable, practical numbers," while Board President Valerie Arkin favored striking the word "portables" from the ballot language, citing the district's goal to invest in more permanent buildings and facilities instead of temporary ones. The amendment was supported by the other trustees.
The resolution to advance the bond measure to the ballot passed with full support from the board, including Miller, who phoned in his vote from New Orleans that evening.
PUSD must file the paperwork for the March 2020 election with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters' Office by Dec. 6 in order to qualify for the statewide primary election ballot on March 3, 2020.
This story has been updated; the previous version stated that property owners would pay $52 under the $323M bond. That number was corrected to $43.10. The article also originally said the second issuance of Measure I1 bonds this summer was for $100 million; that number has been changed to the correct figure of $90 million.