Two Calaveras County school districts have bond measures on the ballot for the Nov. 3 General Election. These measures require 55% of voter approval to pass. Here’s what voters need to know.
VUSD’s Measure I
With Measure I, Vallecito Union School District (VUSD) is asking property owners for $2.8 million to shore up unforeseen costs discovered during ongoing renovations at Albert Michelson Elementary, Hazel Fischer Elementary and Avery Middle schools.
The district, providing service to the communities of Vallecito, Murphys and Arnold to the county line below the Bear Valley Ski Resort, enrolls approximately 590 students across its three schools.
In 2018, VUSD voters approved Measure E, an $11 million bond measure to pay for a suite of new projects, including replacing heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, fixing leaky roofs and installing new multi-purpose rooms, among other renovations.
“We had many long overdue upgrades,” said VUSD Superintendent Jim Frost, with reference to antiquated diesel-powered boilers and leaky roofs.
But when contractors broke into the walls, they found dry rot in trusses, termite damage, and a substantially higher amount of asbestos than expected.
The district also had to replace fire alarm systems and install new gym flooring and lighting.
Another cost that arose was revamping entries, handicap parking areas and restrooms to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
These costs and more sucked up Measure E funding, leaving no room in the budget to replace Avery Middle School’s track and field, a priority with the 2018 measure.
The aged track and field is in “dire shape” – unsafe and riddled with divots, according to Frost.
“We’re asking voters to support us in getting the rest of the job done,” Frost said.
New funding from Measure I would shore up excess costs of removing asbestos from school buildings, repairing dry rot damage and renovating Avery Middle School’s track and field.
Painting, structural improvements and other “clean-up work,” including shade structures for students for outdoor lunch time would also be covered under the bond.
If approved by voters, the additional bond will cost households less than $10 annually for every $100,000 of assessed value, yielding an annual average of $252,000 through 2036.
Frost estimated there to be about 5,000 to 6,000 property owners in the district.
Renovations undertaken in May using Measure E bond monies are “99% finished,” with two multi-purpose rooms currently being installed and a final tune-up of new HVAC systems pending, according to Frost.
He said the HVAC upgrades were much needed, as the district’s diesel boilers were proving to be far too costly to maintain.
If Measure I passes, the remaining renovations should be completed before spring of 2021.
CUSD’s Measure H
Calaveras Unified School District’s (CUSD) Measure H is asking voters for $32.8 million to fund the construction of Career Technical Education classrooms at Calaveras High School (CHS), a new gym at Toyon Middle School, track and field facilities at San Andreas Elementary School, new turf on the multi-use playing field at CHS, and tennis court renovations at CHS, among other projects.
The district serves 2,688 students across its 11 schools in the northern half of the county.
Superintendent Mark Campbell said improvements are needed at every site in the district, with reference to HVAC replacements; roofing issues; safety and security issues; technology upgrades; classroom modernization; and replacements of plumbing infrastructure and electrical wiring. ADA compliance projects to improve accessibility in campuses, classrooms and restrooms could also be funded under the bond.
CUSD plans on generating $32.8 million with a $40 tax per every $100,000 in assessed value of taxable property to pay for that, averaging $1.8 million raised annually through 2050.
That would reflect an extension of the tax rate levied last year on the district’s previously authorized bonds, meaning rates would not be expected to increase above that amount, per the district.
CUSD has been in “budget cut mode” for the last 10 to 15 years, and has been unable to address critical facility needs, Campbell said.
“Some of these classrooms are well over 25 years old, so when you look at the scope of all the projects we have, our staff deserve better,” Campbell said. “I know how people feel about tax increases, but also know we need to invest in our schools and our kids.”
Campbell said unforeseen costs are always a possibility, especially with such a range of possible projects.
Although the bond would only provide $32 million, the full suite of identified projects would likely cost around $45 million, he said.
“We know we can’t address all of our needs,” Campbell said.
If approved by 55% of the district’s approximately 10,000 registered voters, the district may then qualify for state matching funds. Projects would be undertaken over a five-year period.