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By Collin Breaux
The Capistrano Unified School District is still considering whether to pursue another bonding measure to fund school facility upgrades, after similar bonding measures failed to gain required approval from 55% of voters. .
Specifically, CUSD is currently investigating a potential bond for Dana Hills High School in Dana Point, and it is acutely aware of the challenge it faces in getting enough votes. District officials are seeking funding to renovate Dana Hills High, which, like other CUSD campuses, is aging and in need of updated infrastructure.
The CUSD Board of Directors heard the first reading of a sample vote measurement for possible district staff bail at a meeting on Wednesday, May 18. The potential measure proposes to levy two cents for every $100 of estimated land value.
No measures of official obligation have been officially approved to be placed on a ballot at this time.
The bond metric example seeks to obtain $98 million from the bond and $52 million in government matching funds. The measurement sample will return to the board at a meeting in June for possible approval of ballot placement.
“The Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees has determined that Dana Hills High School is nearly 50 years old, opened in 1973, and the aging school no longer effectively supports educational goals and standards district-wide, including adhering to current safety and accessibility standards and providing the learning environments to prepare students for college and careers,” the measurement sample reads.
According to a briefing presentation at Wednesday’s meeting, the total estimated cost for replacing classrooms at Dana Hills High is $285 million, with several sources of funding estimated for the project in addition to measuring obligation – although the obligation measure would account for the majority of the funding.
If the project were to be fully funded in absolute scope, $169 million in bond funds would be required. However, the results of a survey on the feasibility of the bonds presented at an April board meeting found that the amount voters were comfortable with – $20 per $100,000 of assessed land value – would not be enough to cover these costs, so the district is prepared to downscale the project.
“It’s really tough for me, because we really have to do this,” said board chair Martha McNicholas, whose area of representation covers parts of Dana Point. “We need to put this on the ballot, just for the seismic stages we’re going through.”
The specific intended use of such bond financing would be to replace classroom buildings with improved facilities; providing new science laboratories; new classrooms to support specialized vocational training programs; improve access to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) across campus; install modern air conditioning systems; and upgrading or adding additional school drop-offs.
Dana Point community member Katie Andersen spoke out in favor of a bond measure to fund campus improvements.
“Based on polling data, we are about the same place in terms of voter support as in previous bond attempts. However, I would like to argue that there are some key differences with this proposed link that you need to consider,” Andersen said. “No. 1, the money will go directly to Dana Hills High School and cannot be used elsewhere for other projects. No. 2, the cost of rebuilding our school is increasing. This problem does not get any easier to solve, and it must be resolved.
To put it into perspective, the district is asking homeowners in the area to pay only $127 to $215 a year, Andersen said.
“I will do my best to educate our community on what it includes and how we can all benefit from it, even homeowners without children in the public school system,” Andersen said. “I look forward to the day when school facilities truly reflect the top-notch education provided by our phenomenal teachers and staff at Dana Hills High School.”
Kira Davis — who is campaigning for the vacant Zone 2 board seat, which covers the Ladera Ranch and parts of San Juan Capistrano — encouraged the district to “think outside the box” when seeking funding and perhaps to consider other monetary measures. sources.
“I think I came to my first board meeting many years ago, and Dana Hills improvements were on the agenda then,” Davis said. “Being just a layman, it’s confusing (to know) why this can’t be done.
“It’s also confusing that the only solution is a bond, and that’s the only thing you come to us with,” she continued. “If we can’t get the bond passed in 2020 — now, when gas is $6.39 a gallon in some places and we’re looking at record inflation — it seems impossible that we can ask taxpayers to pay even more for those upgrades that Dana Hills High needs.
Administrator Amy Hanacek – whose zone covers parts of Dana Point – said they have thought outside the box and there are a myriad of funding sources the district has tapped into to make funding upgrades. a possibility.
District officials need to communicate the need for a bond and school funding to residents who are tax averse and keep trying when it comes to passing a bond, she said.
“Basically, schools are built either by Mello-Roos (taxes) or builders’ fees. That’s the way California is set up,” Hanacek said. “After that, it’s time for the community to reinvest. As we have seen with every other school district – except, perhaps, for one – in the state of California, the communities get this message then. They understand what they are investing in. They adopted one, two, three or four multiple bonds.
Administrator Gila Jones, who represents parts of San Juan Capistrano, said she didn’t like the idea of bonds, but there was “no other way” to build, replace or renovate schools, given the structure of school funding in California.
“School budgets are very specifically designed so that they really only allow for – I kind of call it a starvation budget – salaries, books, heat and light,” Jones said. “There really is no extra money.”
Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other southern Orange County news as editor of The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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