Almanac

Schools - June 26, 2013

School bond measure officially approved for November ballot

by Renee Batti

There was much agonizing over language but no surprises when the Menlo Park City School District board met on June 17 and unanimously approved placing a $23 million bond measure on the November ballot.

The board also unanimously approved the extension of the German-American International School's lease of the district-owned O'Connor campus by one year, allowing the private school to stay at the Menlo Park campus until May 15, 2015.

With enrollment surging and the district's four schools feeling the pressures of overcrowding and increasing class size, the board voted earlier this year to reopen the former O'Connor school in the Willows neighborhood in 2016. It will serve third- to fifth-graders coming from the K-2 program at nearby Laurel School.

If the bond measure is approved by 55 percent of voters, the bonds will pay for new buildings and equipment on the approximately six-acre campus. The district will decide whether to renovate or tear down and rebuild the only existing building on the site after an investigation by engineering and geotechnical experts.

According to the district, the "best estimate" of the maximum tax rate levied to meet the debt service of a $23 million bond measure would be $8.70 per year per $100,000 of assessed valuation of taxable property.

The resolution authorizing the ballot measure includes the board's intent "to issue such bonds, if approved by voters, only as current interest bonds unless future assessed property valuation or interest rates vary substantially" from current projections.

That language was added at a June 11 meeting at the request of board member Jeff Child, who wanted the board to signal to voters their preference for that type of bond instead of the increasingly controversial capital appreciation bond (CAB). With a CAB, a school district or other public agency pays no interest until the bond term ends, but the interest rate is higher, as is the ultimate cost to the public.

Board members spent most of their time during the June 17 discussion on 75 words — or 74, depending on who was counting correctly. Those words will be the bond measure's ballot summary, which is legally limited to 75 words.

The difficulty was in conveying the district's intent to use the bond revenue to reopen a new school, but to include the possibility that, if all the revenue is not needed for the new school, the remaining money would be applied toward critical capital projects on other campuses.

If there's leftover money, the ballot measure authorizes work at the district's other campuses including roof repair, replacement or modification; seismic and structural upgrades; replacement or repair of energy efficiency systems; installation, renovation and improvement of campus security systems; renovation, repair and upgrade of classroom and multipurpose room interiors; and construction, renovation, repair and upgrade of classroom and storage spaces.

Go to tinyurl.com/MPbond26 and click on the link under 4.a to read the ballot language and the resolution authorizing the bond election.

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