Measure A sparks spirited debate on the South Shore
The June 3 election is just around the corner, and Measure A has become a hotly debated topic around town.
If 55 percent of voters approve Measure A, a property assessment would tax $38.70 per $100,000 of the assessed value of a property. It would provide $87 million to the district over 35 years, according to Measure A’s full text.
If Measure A passes, a committee would oversee the facility projects, and an independent audit also would occur by law, said Jim Tarwater, Lake Tahoe Unified School District superintendent.
Tarwater said the district’s facilities need this bond, since most buildings were built between 1946 and 1975.
“You wouldn’t tolerate it in your house; why would you tolerate it in your schools?” he said.
Two existing bonds still are in effect: the 1992 bond for $7 million and the 1998 bond for $17 million. The bonds helped build South Tahoe Middle School’s multipurpose room and South Tahoe High School’s science wings.
South Lake Tahoe City Councilman Bill Crawford said the wording for Measure A is vague, pointing to a clause in the measure’s tax-rate statement that indicates rates could vary in the years they apply.
The tax-rate statement says, in part: “The average tax rate is expected to be 3.87 cents ($38.70 per $100,000) of assessed valuation over the life of the bonds.”
Tarwater said the wording is vague because of legal reasons – the bonds haven’t been sold yet, so the amounts are estimated.
LTUSD Board President Sue Novasel said $87 million is the maximum amount that can be collected, which is stated in the full text of Measure A.
The bond would provide funds for projects identified by the Master Plan Committee. A 25-person committee, which included community members, district employees and two school board officials, identified facility projects in the district and prioritized them based on need. The projects fall into four different priority categories.
The bond only can fund projects that are on the bond project list. If unforeseen elevated costs come up, projects in Priority Four, such as expansion and reconstruction of the transportation and warehouse facility, may only be partially funded.
The No. 1 project priority begins at South Tahoe High School with the Green Academy, which has the construction and transportation programs.
STHS Principal Ivone Larson said traditional vocational education classes aren’t what they used to be. Instead, schools treat these programs as career pathways.
“It’s beyond changing oil – it’s learning to work on a hybrid engine,” Larson said.
Novasel said career pathways help give students a well-rounded education because they are gaining skills they wouldn’t be getting in other classes.
Larson said other career pathways the high school plans to pursue through this bond are in arts, entertainment and media, which is one of the biggest industries in California. There, students can learn Web design, multimedia, film editing, and 3-D animation and modeling. Production arts such as broadcasting also will be taught.
“I believe our community needs to grow,” Larson said. “If we’re not growing, we’re dying.”
Crawford said the district should be focusing on improving test scores and not on facilities.
“This is a bill of luxury,” Crawford said.
With the housing market in its current state and the rising costs of gas and food, a bond is bad timing, Crawford said.
Novasel said an opportunity like this won’t come around for a long time because of the economy. If the bond doesn’t pass, the district will lose $15.4 million in matching fund grants. That could mean waiting a whole generation before this opportunity comes again, Novasel said.
“We can’t wait another generation of kids,” Novasel said.
Programs need facilities, Tarwater said. At Bijou Community School, six kindergarten classrooms are planned to be built. When the Two-Way Immersion language program progresses, the school is going to need those extra classrooms.
Another concern about Measure A is that funds would be used to build a facility for the Boys & Girls Club of Lake Tahoe.
The bond will not buy a facility for the Boys & Girls Club, Novasel said. The district has the land to build a gym at Bijou Community School. Novasel said the club must apply for a matching fund grant to pay for half of the facility.
“We’re not giving it away; we’re creating a partnership,” Novasel said.