Almanac

Viewpoint - May 14, 2014

Editorial: Voters face two major bond issues; Woodside has school bond

There are two major bond issues on the June ballot with very different goals — one to build more classroom space at local high schools for an expected enrollment bulge that could add 22 percent more students over the next five years, and the other to make 62,000 acres of wilderness and trails more accessible for local residents. In addition, the Woodside Elementary School District is seeking approval of a $13.5 million bond measure to make improvements at its combined elementary/middle school on Woodside Road.

$265 million will pay for space needed at Sequoia district high schools

We believe there is a compelling case to approve the Sequoia Union High School District's $265 million bond issue. It would pay for two small high schools and additional classrooms at all four of the district's high schools — Menlo-Atherton, Woodside, Sequoia (Redwood City) and Carlmont (San Carlos/Belmont).

How else could the district accommodate the huge enrollment surge that is making its way through the district's feeder schools now? A major factor in this demographic shift is that many older residents are moving out and selling their homes to newly affluent young parents, drawn here by the tech boom and excellent schools.

New classrooms will cover much of the immediate demand for space, but when the two small magnet-type schools come on line it is hoped they will be popular and help alleviate pressure on the big schools. One new school would be built in the Menlo Park area and the other in the north part of the district. Each existing school will add classroom space for 300 to 400 additional students, although that number could increase. Menlo-Atherton's enrollment is expected to jump at least 25 percent by 2020-21, and a 19 percent jump is expected at Woodside High. Double-digit growth is also likely at Sequoia and Carlmont schools.

If history is any indicator, the odds are high — 82.4 percent according to state calculations — that the bond measure will be approved. A major factor favoring school bonds is that only 55 percent voter approval is needed, and historically, the Midpeninsula has been supportive of school bonds.

This bond measure comes at a relatively low price, costing property owners just $16 per $100,000 of assessed valuation. That means a home valued at $1 million would add a tax of $160 a year, hardly a burden for owners of today's high-valued homes.

We urge residents to vote yes on Measure A, the bond measure for the Sequoia Union High School District.

Open space bond will help upgrade huge Peninsula asset

More than 40 years ago, before voters approved setting aside land for the Midpeninsula Open Space District, there was no certainty that the lush meadows and forests of the scenic Coastal Range would be protected from development. Until voters approved an initiative in 1972 to create the district that now spans San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, developers could have built subdivisions and commercial projects all the way up the hill from San Francisco Bay to the coastside.

Measure AA on the June 3 ballot authorizes the sale of up to $300 million in bonds to fund improvements to make sure the 62,000-acre preserve is maintained properly and made more accessible for the public to enjoy over the next 30 years. The cost to each taxpayer in this far-flung district will be minimal — $3.18 per $100,000 of assessed valuation, or just over $30 a year for the owner of a home assessed at $1 million. The district is primarily funded now by a property tax of $17 per $100,000 assessed valuation, which would not be affected by the bond issue vote.

The need for the bond measure was determined after a year and a half of public meetings to evaluate the district's priorities and develop a vision and plan for the district's 26 preserves over the next 40 years. Among other things, the funds would be used to open more areas to public access, improve and construct more trails and facilities, restore creeks and streams, and acquire more land as it becomes available. This initiative is exactly what the district should be doing — working to add more opportunities for the thousands of hikers, bikers, horseback riders, campers and dog owners who visit the district 365 days a year.

It is the taxpayers of Menlo Park, Atherton, Portola Valley, Woodside, Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Mountain View, Redwood City, San Carlos, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Saratoga, and Monte Sereno who have paid to keep this preserve intact over the years and will continue to do so if this bond measure is approved by two-thirds of the voters on June 3. This is a high bar. We urge residents to vote yes on Measure AA, which will approve up to $300 million in bonds to make much needed improvements in the open space district.

Woodside school bond measure will pay to build new auditorium, add classrooms

The small, 450-student elementary and middle school in Woodside looks spiffy from the outside, but some of its buildings are outdated and need replacing, including the 1940s-era Sellman Auditorium. This and other needed improvements will be made if voters in the Woodside Elementary School District approve a $13. 5 million bond measure on June 3.

Measure D would cost district residents $24.05 per $100,000 of assessed valuation, or $240 for a home assessed at $1 million. It would be added to the $34 for bond issues approved in 1999 and 2005. The cost is apparently not a concern, as the bond measure faces no apparent organized opposition.

Along with replacing the auditorium, named after former longtime superintendent George Sellman, the planned projects include replacement of two aging portable classroom buildings, repairs to leaky roofs, and other maintenance and modernization projects.

We urge Woodside voters to approve Measure D, which will greatly improve and enhance Woodside Elementary School.

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