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Turlock Unified takes first steps to form Measure N and O oversight committees

With the passing of two local bond measures and consequently $88.8 million in funding for school safety and modernization projects, Turlock Unified School District is working to ensure all bond funds are spent as promised with the expected formation of two citizen oversight committees early next year.

As of Tuesday, results from the Nov. 8 election showed 68.5 percent approval for Measure N and 67.1 percent approval for Measure O. The focus of the two bonds, a $40.8 million elementary bond measure and a $48 million district wide bond measure, is to address critical educational and facility needs throughout the district, including safety improvements, modernization of facilities, updated and improved facilities for Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) programs and renovations to the Turlock High science wing.

“A special thank you to all of the voters who went to those polls — no matter how crowded they were or how difficult it was to get there — to put those votes forward,” said facilities planner and safety coordinator Roger Smith. “Tonight we take our first steps.”

The Board has 60 days from the date the Measure N and Measure O election results are certified, which is scheduled to occur at their Dec. 6 meeting, to form two citizen oversight committees. The purpose of the committees are to alert the public if funds are not being spent on the projects specified in the bond measures.

“What puts us in kind of an awkward situation is we have to have two committees because our two bonds represent different territories. One is, of course, the entire district, which includes Keyes and Chatom, the other is the school facilities improvement district which is only our elementary portion,” said Smith. “Our legal advisor has recommended that we have two committees to avoid a situation where it is not properly represented on one or the other.”

As part of the committee, members can review independent financial and performance audits annually, physically inspect school buildings and grounds and request or encourage cost-saving efforts in design and use of facilities.

The committees will encompass at least seven members, which will be appointed by the Board for a two-year term. The composition of the committee is mandated by the State to include one member who is active in a business organization representing the business community located within the District, one member active in a senior citizens’ organization, one member active in a bona fide taxpayers’ organization, a parent or guardian of a student in the District and a parent or guardian who is also involved in a parent-teacher organization.

“Generally speaking it is not hard to get the seven members we need, but the one that is the real challenge and one we need to start thinking about now is the bona fide taxpayers organization. We don’t have a bona fide taxpayers organization in Turlock,” said Smith. “We ended up recruiting Georgianna McDonald to come to us from Modesto. She was a member of the Stanislaus County bona fide taxpayers organization and she filled that slot for us on both of our committees because we just couldn’t find anybody locally.”

Smith added that no District employee, official, vendor, contractor or consultant may serve on either committee.

“They can be an advisory role, but they do not actually vote or participate in the decision making of the committee,” said Smith.

Committee meetings are subject to the Brown Act and notices are required to be posted and open to the public. Members must issue an annual report to the Board on activities and minutes and reports must be posted to the TUSD website.

Along with certifying election results, the Board is also slated to approve Measure N and Measure O Citizens Oversight Committee organization, charge, selection process and bylaws during their Dec. 6 meeting. Candidates must submit their applications by Jan. 13 and the Board is expected to approve committee composition on Jan. 17.