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Tuesday, March 19 , 2019, 1:09 pm | Fog/Mist 55º

 
 
 
 

Santa Barbara District Approves More Bond-Funded Projects for Secondary Schools

Members express concern over expected rate increases, and delay making a decision on proposed elementary projects

Without certainty that the rest of the Measure Q & R general obligation bonds will be sold, Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education members were hesitant Tuesday to approve projects to move forward this week.

Measure Q, for the secondary schools, and Measure R, for the elementary districts, authorize the district to sell $75 million and $35 million in bonds, respectively.

Of the bonds already sold, there is $10.9 million available for secondary school projects and $3.5 million available in cash for elementary school projects, which facilities staff want to spend on projects getting started over the summer while students aren’t on the campuses, Superintendent Dave Cash said.

Overall, the preliminary numbers show that the district has “north of $300 million” in facility needs, he said.

Board member Ed Heron said he is concerned because the district told voters the tax rate would stay stable even with these bonds being sold, and the rates are expected to increase.

“Every article and resolution said the rate would be kept the same because of the great way we were selling bonds,” he said. “When I see the amount of money we have obligated our community to, 30 or 40 years from now, to me it’s mindboggling.”

However, he added that he was “probably the only one up here who thinks this way” so the debate over selling more bonds may not be an issue.

Other members said they wanted a decision on selling more bonds in the near future before committing to projects.

Cash and other staff members made up the project priority lists based on the cash currently available, but there was a long board discussion about a more comprehensive look at the facilities before moving projects forward. That was, after all, the point of getting the assessment done — to approach the projects all at once instead of piecemeal.

The board will go through a workshop on this topic within the next few weeks, so they voted to delay a decision for the proposed elementary projects.

Libraries for Washington and Adams elementary schools were not on the list, as each one is estimated to cost about $5 million and there is only $3.5 million in cash left.

Board member Kate Parker said it’s disappointing that rates would be higher, but there would be even greater outcry if the district didn’t move forward with projects it promised to the community. With her “parent hat” on, she reiterated that the Adams community has now been waiting for a library for 15 years.

However, board members narrowly voted 3-2 to approve the project list for secondary schools, which means staff can move forward with them. Many will start construction this summer. The projects include: the La Cumbre Junior High School theater renovation; San Marcos High School’s electrical infrastructure upgrade and senior parking lot renovation; the Santa Barbara High School gym upgrade; the Santa Barbara Junior High School asphalt upgrade; the Goleta Valley Junior High School roofing replacement; and the La Colina Junior High School roofing replacement and hillside stabilization.

They didn’t approve the Dos Pueblos High School field replacement, which would be jointly funded by the district and the Dos Pueblos Charger Association, but asked for more information.

While there are many projects that get partially or completely funded by community fundraising, the district has no policy on prioritizing those projects. However, the facilities staff does tend to recommend funding projects that have community help, board president Monique Limon pointed out. Santa Barbara High’s gym project is 30-percent funded by fundraising while the Dos Pueblos field replacement would be half-funded by fundraising, but the La Cumbre theater would likely never be funded if not for bond money, Cash said.

“It doesn’t seem equitable … I really do believe this board needs a policy for this, or at least a discussion,” Limon said.

Board member Pedro Paz agreed.

“We have different communities across our district,” Paz said, “and some are more able to step up to the table and some are not.”

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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