After that plan was adopted in 2013, the district's voters approved a $60 million bond measure, which also added about $300 per $1 million of assessed valuation to property tax bills. Both measures asked for approval of the maximum-sized bond the district is legally allowed to put on the ballot under Proposition 39, which was passed in 2000 and reduced the margin needed for school bond approvals from two-thirds to 55 percent.
The assessed valuation of a property is not its current value, but is based on the purchase price and improvements made to a property; it is allowed to increase by 2 percent or the state's cost of living increase each year, whichever is less.
In February, when the Las Lomitas board unanimously approved putting this bond measure on the ballot, the school board agenda said: "To address the long term facility needs, the District worked with parents, community members, staff, and administration, in addition to architectural and engineering professionals, to develop a Facilities Master Plan that would meet the immediate and future facility needs." The agenda said the bond measure was needed "in order to continue the district's program."
The "Yes on R" committee's website says the district's facilities master plan called for two phases of work. That master plan, however, cannot be found on the district's website, and when asked for an electronic copy, district Bond Projects Director Eric Holm said one does not exist.
Holm said the school board never actually adopted anything but a draft master plan, which became obsolete soon after adoption when the district purchased a 1-acre property next door to Las Lomitas Elementary School for $3 million in 2014. The draft, he said, was never made public because it contained pictures of students the district had not obtained permission to use.
Revisions to the master plan were never approved, he said. "We never approved an official document," he said, and changes are continually being made to the master plan. "It's a living, breathing document that keeps changing," he said.
Holm provided The Almanac with this list of projects that the board referred to when deciding on the size of the bond:
• Las Lomitas School administration and parking lot modifications. Includes new administration building, flex classroom building and reconfiguration of existing parking lot and campus drop-off area.
• Repair/replace outdated building systems. Strategically planned as needed. Scope includes replacing obsolete systems including roofs, electrical infrastructure, security and fire alarm head ends, public address system and telephones, roof-mounted heating, ventilation and air conditioning units, exterior lighting and energy management. Allowances for: dry rot, seismic upgrades, Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades, code-required toilet upgrades, fiber modifications, repainting and fencing.
• Convert classrooms to science room. Includes reconfiguration of existing space to create a science classroom and science storage.
• Demolition of portables. Demolition of existing portables and utilities and repaving of blacktop surrounding them at Las Lomitas. Includes asphalt, striping, garbage cans, basketball standards, T-ball standard and miscellaneous site furniture. La Entrada Middle School scope includes pavement demolition, but field restoration is part of a separate cost.
• Las Lomitas north sidewalk along bus drop-off. Demolish and replace sidewalk and blacktop along existing drop-off lane.
• La Entrada parking lot reconfiguration. Improvements to increase on-campus queue, add parking and improve student safety.
• Replace play structures at both sites, including play surface and equipment designed for accessible needs.
• Restore fields. Las Lomitas scope includes modest regrading and reseeding. La Entrada scope includes regrading field for proper drainage, installing a running path, new irrigation and new sod over entire field area.
Three other bond measures totaling $84 million have been passed since 1999.
Unlike parcel taxes, a senior exemption is not available for bond measures.
The two-school Las Lomitas district is currently working on major construction projects on both its campuses using the proceeds of the November 2013 bond. District officials say a 2013 master plan identified $120 million in needs for its schools: kindergarten through third-grade Las Lomitas and fourth- through eighth-grade La Entrada Middle.
The school district includes parts of Atherton, Menlo Park, Woodside and the Ladera neighborhood of unincorporated Portola Valley. Most of the district is west of Alameda de las Pulgas, but it also contains a few blocks on the east side of Alameda and a larger stretch of Atherton bounded by Stockbridge and Atherton avenues and Selby Lane.
At is.gd/ll_map find a map of the district.
The resolution authorizing the bond election is a long list of projects the bond revenue could be used for, including: demolition and construction of new classrooms, technology upgrades, energy-efficiency upgrades, playgrounds and equipment, multipurpose rooms, security and safety systems, school offices, and "furniture, equipment, architectural, engineering, and similar planning costs, program management (and) staff training."
One difference from the district's situation in 2013 is that the district was then planning to increase capacity for more than 100 additional students at each school. However, since the 2012-13 school year the district's enrollment has fallen from a high of 1,419 to the current 1,360.
Superintendent Lisa Cesario said the district had "a bubble" of students going through the school, with one grade level reaching 180 students. The district's smallest class now has 120 students and the district believes grade levels will stabilize with between 120 and 140 students, she said.
The district worked to make its plans flexible to prepare for more or fewer students, she said. "What's the biggest we could be, what's the smallest we could be?" she said. The district is currently reducing the number of teachers by attrition, she said.
If the bond measure passes, it will put the tax rate per $1 million of assessed valuation at the highest of any neighboring district, but three districts in San Mateo County would remain at higher levels. According to a report prepared by the Portola Valley School District by Keygent Advisors, if the new bond measure passes, Las Lomitas would have a tax rate of $652 per $1 million; Portola Valley School District would have a rate of $543 if a maximum-sized bond of about $42 million is passed (one is being considered but has not yet been approved for the ballot); Woodside Elementary School District has a rate of $418; Redwood City School District, $412; Menlo Park City School District, $385; and Ravenswood City School District, $352. Belmont-Redwood Shores, Burlingame Elementary and Jefferson Elementary would have higher tax rates.
District officials say that construction costs are high now, but will only get higher if the bond is not approved and necessary repairs are not made.
"If we don't do this now, we're going to be dealing with an emergency situation — it's just going to be more expensive," said school board President John Earnhardt, who is chairing the campaign committee for the bond measure.
Find more information on the bond measure at is.gd/llbond_info.
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