After a year-long process of researching and review, the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District is moving forward on plans to place a $19,840,000 bond on the November ballot.

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Nearly all of the proceeds are slated to go for renovations of the physical plant, to pay off debt and the district’s municipal lease and to create a technology endowment all to protect the general fund from the high costs the district has experienced, said Jon Isom. “The community has a long history of improving school facilities,” says Isom, who was hired by the board to guide them through the process. Bonds were successful in 1908, 1934 and the 1960s and ’70s. The last bond was passed in 1991.

Much of the infrastructure of the school has gone without updating since the 1930s, including most of the plumbing and many of the school’s gas pipes, noted superintendent Paul Turnbull. “1936 was a long time ago.”

Leaking roofs and maintenance issues continue to dent the budget at a time when the school is receiving no state aid, which means taking dollars away from students, said Turnbull.

“We live in a fairly conservative area,” noted Bruce Porter, board president. “We always swallow hard before we sign off to tax ourselves and our neighbors.”

The bond calls for a cap of $30 per 100,000 of assessed value, Isom said. But in actuality, given the current tax base, the tax will amount to a hit on taxpayers of $15 per 100,000.

Isom explained that after consulting the teachers and maintenance staff regarding needs, and a review of where money is being spent on repairs was undertaken, a list of projects and the cost to accomplish them was developed.

A telephone survey was then made to assess the community’s tolerance for a bond, and to isolate opinion on many of the larger ticket items proposed. One item not included in the bond request due to limited community support is the replacement of the 45-year-old pool. Instead, a smaller amount of funds will go to keeping the current pool in repair.

The capital plan does call for stick-built new classrooms instead of replacing the deteriorating portables, said Isom, because that is what community response indicated was wanted. “I think everyone would say that stick-built is better than portables,” he said, noting how they also last longer.

The actual cost of all items listed to be address is slightly more than $25 million, but the district is entitled to approximately $5 million in state aid. “Does the state have the money to pay that now? No, it doesn’t,” noted Isom. Nonetheless, the bond will only be asking taxpayers to fund the net cost needs.

The proposed bond complies with all of the safety features required by Proposition 39 (passed in 2000). The district is prevented from doing any project not specifically listed in the full text of the bond (attached to the online version of this story). But the district is not required to do them all, said Isom.

No one knows what will be found when work begins on opening walls and digging up pipes. Because the market cost of materials fluctuates, the costs contained on the bond are estimates based on the information available now, Isom said. “At the end of the day, you might not be able to do everything on the list.”

If passed, the board will be required to conduct annual independent performance and financial audits of bond projects. It is also required to appoint an independent citizens’ oversight committee to monitor expenditures. The committee will remain in place until all proceeds from the bond are spent, said Isom.

“The good news is that if we choose to tax ourselves, at least we will know where the money is going to go,” said Porter.

Marc Owens attempted to pass a resolution that would remove the technology endowment and other items from the proposed project list. He said he believed if the matter is put on the ballot as is, the board risks the chance to get a lower amount passed. He wanted to cap the request at $11 million.

But other board members feared the impact of doing so would prevent the district from maintaining the current level of academic excellence. Principal Mark Swanitz earlier reminded them that the school recently earned two national rankings.

Mark Peterschick and Richard Wilson both spoke to the question of the technology endowment covering the topics of security concerns, storage needs, Internet speed and the effort to keep students up on the technology needed for the 21st century workplace. Although, noted Peterschick, when it comes to hardware, “that may be a fool’s errand.” “It is changing so much and so rapidly,” said trustee Christine Burtness. “I just fear if we don’t have some way, some money set aside, it is going to cost us so much more. I think the populace understands that.”

Peterschick noted the modern day saying: “If you can buy it, it’s already obsolete.” Of greater concern may be students bringing their own technology to campus and how new 3G and 4G smart phones can sometimes get around the school’s stringent filters. “It’s a dead heat as to whether students or teachers are more undisciplined” when it comes to Internet security, said Peterschick, generating a laugh.

In order to meet the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors deadline for inclusion on the consolidated Nov. 6 ballot, the resolution must be submitted to the County Clerk of the Board no later than June 28. Statewide, of the 33 school bond measures on the last ballot, said Isom, 69% percent passed, including one in Buellton.

The board went on to conduct a public hearing and pass the 2012-13 adopted budget. Although several members of the community were present at the meeting, none took the opportunity to speak during the many times the board opened the floor.

The next school board meetings will be held at 6 p.m. on July 17, Aug. 21 and Sept.11.


Ballot measure (abbreviated form)

“To improve the quality of education; replace old and deteriorating roofs; upgrade inadequate electrical and plumbing systems; improve student access to computers and technology; modernize outdated classrooms and facilities; make health and safety improvements; replace old heating, ventilation, and cooling systems; and make energy efficiency improvements shall Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District issue $19,840,000 of bonds at legal interest rates, have an independent citizens’ oversight committee and have NO money for administrative salaries or be taken by the state?”

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