Almanac

Schools - August 14, 2013

Voters face $60 million bond measure

by Renee Batti

Voters in the Las Lomitas Elementary School District will be asked in November to approve a $60 million bond measure to pay for building permanent classrooms and upgrading existing buildings. The school board unanimously approved the ballot measure on Aug. 6.

Renovation projects at both district schools — Las Lomitas (K-3) in Atherton and La Entrada (4-8) in Menlo Park — are needed to accommodate dramatic enrollment increases, district officials say.

The bond measure needs the support of 55 percent of the voters to pass. To meet the debt service on a $60 million bond, property owners would pay about $30 per year per $100,000 of assessed valuation of taxable property, according to Carolyn Chow, the district's chief business officer.

Enrollment in the last 10 years has climbed by 40 percent, and when school opens later this month, enrollment is expected to rise by another 70 students to a total of 1,444. It is expected to increase by 46 the following year, Ms. Chow said.

The enrollment growth is significantly higher than predicted by demographic studies done before 2010. One study projected growth to taper off in 2015, but a study done about three years ago determined that the pre-2015 growth projections of the older study were far too low, and the "leveling off" prediction inaccurate.

To accommodate the additional students, each of the two schools uses nine portable classrooms, which would be eliminated if the bond measure passes.

In a staff report released last February, projects and their costs are broken into three priority lists. Funds needed to pay for "Priority 1" projects — described as improvements "to accommodate students in permanent classrooms to ensure the most conducive learning-teaching environments" — total slightly more than $59 million.

To eliminate all 18 portable buildings on the two campuses, the project would include building new two-story buildings for classrooms. It also would include investment in modern technology, improved accessibility to meet ADA (American With Disabilities Act) requirements, and an expanded lunch area to deal with the larger number of students.

Permanent classroom space and upgrades to existing classrooms are necessary to accommodate the "shifting types of instruction" the district must provide to meet the new "common core" standards, said board member Jay Siegel, who with board president Richard Ginn and other members of the school community prepared the ballot language and the list of projects covered by bond revenue if the measure passes.

District residents are now paying for two previously approved bond measures. Measure A was passed in 1999, authorizing the issuing of $12 million in bonds to pay for renovation and repair projects at the district's two schools.

In 2001, voters approved Measure E, which was to raise $12 million to finish renovation projects in the face of escalating costs, and to fund a new gym at La Entrada School and make playground and safety improvements at La Entrada School.

In addition to payments on the bonds, district residents now pay an annual parcel tax of $311 per parcel, according to Ms. Chow.

Go to tinyurl.com/LLBond2013 to read the ballot language and the list of projects eligible for bond revenue funding if the measure passes.

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