Voters can improve schools
Schools in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District are getting old, most older than 30 years. All those years of thousands of kids and hundreds of storms are catching up. The schools need face-lifts, a few even qualify for major surgery.
District officials say classrooms need re-wiring for computer hook-ups, hundreds of single-pane windows need to be replaced, several heating and plumbing systems date back 30 years, roofs are leaking and walls are crumbling.
In an effort to solve some of these problems, the district’s board of trustees has placed a $17 million bond initiative – called Measure C – on the May 4 ballot. If voters accept it, the district will become eligible to receive $10 million in matching state funds, allocated through the statewide passage of Proposition 1A.
The decision to bring the bond to the voters came as a result of the Nov. 3 ballot where California voters authorized the state to sell a record $9.2 billion in school bonds by passing Proposition 1A. The measure earmarked $6.7 billion for the state’s K-12 public school facilities. The largest school bond in California history passed with 62.4 percent of the vote.
And it’s about time, say district officials.
“Our schools are between 25 to 50 years old,” said John Upton, coordinator for the Committee for Measure C. “The state of our facilities is clearly limiting the possibilities for district success in the future.”
Tax hikes should amount to an annual cost of $12.50 per $100,000 of assessed property value, in addition to the existing 1998-1999 district bond tax rate, according to district officials.
That means the annual existing tax of $19.50 will be increased to $32.
The tax dollars would finance major projects such as adding science labs at the middle school and building classrooms at the high school to relieve over-crowding.
“This modernization is more than a Band-Aid,” said Rich Alexander, superintendent of schools. “It goes into the infrastructure of the buildings, looking behind the walls and bringing our facilities up to safety code standards.”
Based on a survey completed in December, the district has reason to believe voters will pass the bond.
Charles Youtz, vice president of George K. Baum & Co., conducted an independent community survey and determined that 78 percent of the South Lake Tahoe electorate would support the bond measure. After reviewing the specific projects, 82 percent of the voters polled declared themselves in favor of passing the bond and 62 percent indicated that they would be willing to accept a raise in taxes.
“All in all, we were very pleasantly surprised at the support the school board has in the district,” Youtz said. “The number of people supporting the bond issue were unusually high, and they expressed a lot of concern about things like energy efficient heating and wiring and plumbing that accommodate modern safety standards.”
Passage of the bond will require at two-thirds voter approval rate. Bond funds will only be used for projects specified in the ballot questions, district officials said. No bond money can go to salaries or administration.
SIDEBAR – What will Measure C pay for?
Replacement of 30-year-old heating and ventilation systems at all schools.
-Installation of additional electrical wiring in all classrooms and libraries for computers and other technology.
-Replacement of deteriorating plumbing.
-Replacement of 30-year-old wiring as needed.
-Five new science labs at South Tahoe Middle School.
-More classrooms at South Tahoe High School.
-Upgrading and building new rest rooms.
-Upgrading storm drainage systems to comply with Lake Tahoe environmental water requirements.
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