After nearly a year of advisory meetings, workshops, surveys and analysis, the Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to place two general obligation bond measures on the ballot this November.
“This past year we have explored the concept of a potential bond or bonds,” said Facilities Planner and Safety Coordinator Roger Smith. “Tonight is a culmination of that exploration.”
The two bonds, a $40.8 million elementary bond measure and a $48 million district wide bond measure, were prepared after substantial research from the Board, including surveys to see if the bonds would be approved by potential voters and the development of a bond advisory committee, which deliberated on what projects should be prioritized by the bonds, if passed.
The district wide bond measure will authorize $48 million in general obligation bonds for facilities at Turlock High School, Pitman High School and Roselawn High school, while the elementary bond measure will authorize $40.8 million in general obligation bonds for facilities at Brown, Crowell, Cunningham, Earl, Julien, Osborn, Medeiros, Walnut and Wakefield Elementary Schools, as well as Dutcher Middle School, Turlock Junior High School and eCademy Charter.
The focus for the two bond measures is to address critical facility needs which were identified through the research. Three major focus areas were decided on: safety, science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, and modernizations and renovations.
“These are things that are certainly highly needed in our district,” said Board Member Barney Gordon. “I’m really excited about the possibility of being able to continue our renovations and modernizations for our classrooms. I think the targets for these bonds are right on.”
Safety and security improvements will include renovations supporting access to controlled entrance points at campuses, including fencing, implementation of universal emergency signal and communication systems, addition or removal of classrooms and supports facilities to reduce overcrowding, development of new property to reduce overcrowding and expand high-demand programs, the removal of hazardous materials on campuses (asbestos, lead-based paint) and upgrades to exterior lighting, heating and ventilation systems.
Improvements and upgrades to STEM programs within the district will include construction of a new THS Science Wing, renovation of existing STEM classrooms, development of advanced 21st century classrooms and expansion of Career and Technical Education and pathways to include STEM, fabrication, health science, business, agriculture, food and natural resources.
Modernizations and renovations are to include construction improvements to accommodate the disabled, improvements and upgrades to meet health and safety codes, reparation and replacement of aging portable classrooms, upgrades to electrical systems and the completion of all code requirements, including installation of new fire hydrants.
Together, the measures will generate $88.8 million in local funds plus potential millions in state matching funds. Local taxpayers will repay the bonds over the next 25 years at a combined projected rate of no more than $58.99 per $100,000 of assessed value. The district wide bond will raise $48 million with a projected rate of no more than $29.99 per $100,000 of assessed value, and the elementary bond will raise $40.8 million with a projected rate of no more than $29.00 per $100,000 of assessed value.
“I really hope the community will support this,” said Board President Frank Lima. “I have no problem serving on this Board and helping the community, but I have a hard time going to the community and asking for help…when you’re going out for a bond it’s like you’ve got your hand out to the community saying, ‘Please help,’ and not everybody is inclined to do that. Everybody wants better schools, everybody wants better facilities, but not everybody wants to pay for it.”
To find their property’s assessed value, property owners must first determine what county their property is located in, then contact the appropriate County Assessor’s Office. Or, property owners can look at their tax bill and find the “net assessed value.”
The bond measures require a process to ensure that tax payer dollars are being spent wisely, which includes a citizen’s oversight committee, an annual oversight report to the community, an independent audit of all bond expenditures and an independent audit of performance in meeting the objectives.
“I feel so strongly that this is the right direction to go,” said Board Member Lori Carlson. “I feel so optimistic and hopeful because I think it’s a great direction to be asking people to go with us.”
The bond measures require a 55 percent affirmative vote to pass and will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.