A proposal by a Turlock housing developer to redraw the boundary line between Turlock Unified School District and Denair Unified School District has outraged the latter, which says that the new boundary line will send what would be future Denair students to Turlock schools instead.
“If enacted, this transfer will cause deep and irreparable harm to Denair schools for many years to come,” wrote DUSD Superintendent Aaron Rosander in a letter to committee members. “While fiscal progress has been made, the District’s budget remains fragile.
“Sadly, approval of the proposed transfer of territory would choke this progress and starve Denair schools of the growth and resources to which it is rightly entitled,” continued Rosander.
Although the petition claims that the proposed territory transfer “will not cause a substantial negative effect on the fiscal status of the affected districts,” Rosander said that it could cost DUSD approximately $1 million in developer fees and about another $750,000 in annual state funding based on how many students would live in the new homes.
The Turlock housing developer behind the proposal is Ronald Katakis of RBK Development, Inc., who requested 90 acres at the northwest corner of Tuolumne and Waring roads to construct over 100 homes ranging from 2,500 square feet to 4,500 square feet. The property is less than a mile from the Denair schools complex and more than two miles away from Turlock High School.
Since Turlock developers are mandated to pay $3.36 per square foot to TUSD to help offset the cost of constructing new facilities and hiring new teachers for the increased amount of students, the first phase of the neighborhood could potentially generate an estimated $1 million in developer fees.
Rosander said that DUSD could also lose $8,000 per student that the state funds each school district. Using conservative estimates, Rosander said that if 90 to 100 students are expected to live in the first phase of new homes, they would generate upwards of $750,000 each school year.
“The economy of scale between the districts is dramatic—$2 million for us and Turlock is not the same thing,” said Rosander.
Rosander said that DUSD has made significant sacrifices to regain fiscal solvency since it was threatened with a potential state takeover three years ago. Administrators, teachers and classified staff all accepted pay cuts between 8 percent and 11 percent as part of the District’s fiscal recovery plan. So far the plan has proved successful as DUSD is on track to finish with small budget surpluses the next two years.
Katakis sent a petition last month to Stanislaus County Office of Education Superintendent Tom Changnon, who was required by State Education Code to form a committee in order to review the plan and make a recommendation regarding the changed boundary line.
The committee, which is made up of 10 current and former school board members in the County, is scheduled to hold a public hearing at 5 p.m. in Turlock and 6 p.m. in Denair on Oct. 28. After the hearings, the committee has up to 120 days to vote for or against the transfer.
DUSD will also hold a public forum for community members to learn more about the proposal at 7 p.m. Oct. 15 in the Coyote Center.
The Journal reached out to Katakis for a comment. He declined to make one at this time.