Saturday, March 24 , 2018, 8:38 am | Fair 46º


Santa Barbara Schools Discuss Priority Areas, Bond Amounts for November Ballot

News that the National Guard Armory property is finally for sale came as a welcome surprise for the Santa Barbara Unified School District and it could change the discussion about November bond measures.

The Board of Education has been working on a priority project list, polling and bond finance analysis, but the armory hasn’t been factored into those discussions — until Tuesday night’s meeting.

A polling firm found that the district’s top priority for the potential bonds — replacing portable classrooms with new, permanent buildings — was not the same as the public, which reacted favorably to repairs, updating technology and safety improvement projects.

Adam Sonenshein from FM3 said the firm polled 624 registered voters in March by phone and online.

They tested reaction to a $60 million bond for the school facilities improvement district (with boundaries of the former elementary district) and a $152 million bond for the larger secondary district that stretches across Santa Barbara and the Goleta Valley.

There was strong support for each measure — in the range of 68 percent each — but voters in the SFID were confused about having two measures on the ballot at the same time, Sonenshein said.

Support dropped, but was still well above the 55-percent mark for passing, when pollsters mentioned the property tax rate of $13 per $100,000 of assessed value, he said.

The board hasn’t made any decisions on the number of bonds — one or two — or the amount for the bonds, and will discuss the issue again at its May 10 meeting.

A constantly-evolving priority project list estimates building permanent buildings to replace portables would cost about $113.8 million for elementary campuses and $57.7 million for junior high and high school campuses.

Board members already seem resigned to the fact they can’t replace all the portables with one bond and may pick-and-choose the ones in the worst shape.

A $20-million line item for the possible purchase and renovation of the Santa Barbara Armory property was added to the list by Superintendent Dave Cash, who was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

The district and Santa Barbara community have talked for decades about the educational potential of the land, which is situated between the Santa Barbara junior and high school campuses.

Obviously, if the armory project is added to November’s bond, other proposed project areas will have to be cut, board members said.

Other major project areas on the priority list include roof repairs, intercom system improvements and window replacement for historic campuses — La Cumbre Junior High, Santa Barbara Junior High and Santa Barbara High schools — which is estimated to cost $13 million.

Board members agreed that it’s more important to choose priority areas than specific projects, particularly since it will be a new Board of Education after November.

Three of five members are on the ballot and at least one, Ed Heron, has decided not to run again.

Monique Limon is running for a State Assembly seat and if she wins, she would leave her term early.

To get on November’s ballot, the Board of Education needs to approve a bond measure resolution by June 28 and get it to the county by July 7.

Bond finance projections from KNN assume a 4.5-percent growth in assessed value every year, which is higher than the 10-year and five-year averages for the two bond areas. The three-year average is 5.2 percent.

KNN presented three options for each bond, with property tax levies of $12.50, $13 and $14 per $100,000 of assessed value. 

The SFID (former elementary district boundaries) bond amounts were $58.7 million, $61 million and $65.7 million, respectively. The secondary district bond amounts ranged from $151.8 million to $171 million with those tax amounts. 

The FM3 polling tested the lowest amounts. 

Noozhawk managing editor 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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