Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustee members demonstrated on Tuesday that it is never too early to prepare for the future as they unanimously approved to allot $3 million for land acquisition and development, a move which could potentially relieve elementary schools nearing impaction.
“The state has reduced the amount of capital funds available to schools by a great extent, so it’s really prudent for us to start setting aside funds for the future,” said Trustee Barney Gordon. “You can’t just build a school overnight, you can’t just fund a school overnight, so it’s really prudent that we prepare ourselves for that possibility of that major development in the south.”
The Board voted in favor of a $9 million interfund transfer for the 2015-16 fiscal year from the General Fund to the Special Reserve Fund for Capital Projects, a third of which was dedicated to land acquisition and development “to meet existing and future enrollment needs.”
“We haven’t had a lot of residential development recently, but there’s been a lot of media reports of the Morgan Ranch area—quite a large development not far from Cunningham,” said Board President Frank Lima. “We do know that our elementary schools are becoming very impacted, so if they build out like they’re claiming to build out, we’re going to have a serious facilities need.”
Following Tuesday’s decision, the General Fund ending balance decreased from $20,737,502 to $11,737,502, while the Special Reserve Fund for Capital Projects ending balance increased from $6,469,592 to $15,469,592.
Comptroller Pam McDiffett said that TUSD has not settled on an exact location to acquire land, however, she said that the District is following the City of Turlock’s Morgan Ranch Master plan, which includes a planned development of 980 to 1,200 units on the south side of Turlock. The plan is roughly 170 acres of land in the southwest corner of Glenwood Avenue and Golf Link Road, which is bound by Highway 99, located just to the south of the community of homes on 5th Avenue, Amberwood Lane and Baywood Lane. Of the 170 acres, 11 are zoned for a public school to accommodate 300 students.
McDiffet said that TUSD could also opt to build on existing sites that haven’t maximized their land potential.
“There hasn’t been any state funding for development in the past several years and that doesn’t look like that’s going to change,” said McDiffett. “And even if the state does miraculously come through with funding for our schools, it’s only a 40-60 match and they don’t purchase land.
“If we were to have to build a facility from the land up, it’s a 10-year plan, so we needed to start having a little fund so we can start thinking about where our expansion is going to be and how we’re going to meet that need,” continued McDiffett.
The Board also unanimously approved interfund transfers on Tuesday for two other unfunded capital project priorities. This included $1 million for District renovations in order to maximize use of current District facilities, and $5 million for the Child Nutrition Central Kitchen, which includes purchase of property and/or a building suitable for the District’s Central Kitchen to allow for expansion of the Dual Immersion program at Dutcher Middle School.
“One of the great things about the Central Kitchen is if we get that maintenance and operations facility off of that site, it’s going to dedicate that site 100 percent to students,” said Lima. “We’ll have that extra space.”