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Santa Clara Education Desk: Jan 29, 2014

Agnews Property Purchase Gets Go-Ahead From State

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Last Friday, the California Department of General Services (DGS) issued a Notice of Proposed Award conditionally selecting the Letter of Intent/Offer submitted by the City of San José and Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) to jointly purchase the Agnews Developmental Property (3500 Zankar Rd, San Jose) for school and park use.

However, the purchase is far from complete. Following the DGS’ announcement, losing bidders have five days to register a protest. Following this, the City of San Jose and Santa Clara Unified – San Jose wants part of the property for a park – have five days to make a one percent down payment on the property. Then the parties can negotiate and finalize the purchase terms. It will be several months before title to the property is transferred.

“If you look at the geography north of 880, it’s woefully undersupplied with schools to meet the needs of the community,” noted State Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski who represents Santa Clara and North San Jose (District 25). “The community has shown wonderful support of collaboration between the different political entities. We always say we want to invest regionally. Here’s a great example of doing just that.”

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While the dissolution of redevelopment will make more tax revenue available from San Jose properties to support the new schools’ operations, because San Jose’s redevelopment agency had a high level of debt – unlike Santa Clara RDA, which had significant lease revenue – it’s unclear how much additional revenue will flow into the district.

Future SCUSD Facilities Needs Add Up to $450 Million

SCUSD’s bond funds are in good shape, Lori Raineri President of Sacramento-based Government Financial Strategies reported at last week’s board meeting. The district currently has more than $4.6 million in unspent bond funds from measures B (1997), J (2004), and H (2010). Plus, debt service is $213.2 million less than originally budgeted.

However, SCUSD will need about $450 million as well as to finance new K-12 and high schools to serve North Santa Clara and San Jose. Because of the area’s “incredible commercial and business growth” – a significant part of which has undoubtedly been driven by the new Levi’s Stadium – the district can borrow up to $1.1 billion.

Raineri proposed a series of bond issues: $1 million between now and 2022 for facilities maintenance, expansion and modernization,14 million in 2014, $218 million in 2016, $85 million in 2018, and $42 million in 2020. Because bond issues result in additional property tax levies, they must be approved by voters. March 7 is the deadline for the June election, while Aug. 8 is the deadline for November. For example, the additional levies to pay off B, J, and H bonds adds $71 to the average property tax bill.

Rainer’s proposal included a survey – that was supposed to be launched last weekend – to gauge voter sentiment.

This precipitated a marathon discussion about first, the relative merits of June and November ballots – June primaries are more likely to bring out strongly partisan voters, while November elections are more likely to bring out larger numbers of voters – and second, what questions should be on the ballot. Bond measures must include a description of what the bonds will be used for, and the Agnews plan is far from a finalized deal.

Trustee Ina Bendis said that the trustees ought to review any questionnaire before a survey was conducted. Trustee Andy Ratermann spoke in favor of a slower approach, simply because when people are contacted for a survey they automatically assume that a project is in the works. In the end, the board took no action on the matter and asked Superintendent Stan Rose to provide additional information.

District Gets Good Grades on Audit

The district had a clean audit report for the 2012-2013, according to auditing firm Crowe Horwath regarding the District’s 2012-13 Audit Report. However, the auditor wasn’t able to follow up on some questions about the teacher housing and mortgage assistance foundations because the records were not available. The audit only includes intra-district accounts – it doesn’t include accounts the district maintains as a subcontractor for other agencies. These are audited by the County Office of Education.

Trustee Christopher Stampolis questioned the audit firm about ASB (student body organization accounts, such as the PTA) and Bendis recommended a specific procedure for auditing those accounts. Last year Stampolis instigated an audit of one specific account – the Cabrillo Carnival – which found nothing amiss.

Board Approves Contract for Consulting Services to Prepare State Accountability Report

At the Jan. 26 meeting, the board approved a contract with Inspiration Quest to help the district in its strategic planning and to develop the new Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) required by the state. Quest estimates the work at between $50,000 and $77,000.

UTSC President Michael Hickey voiced his opinion that the district already had the necessary expertise to develop these plans. Rose responded that because this was the first time the district is preparing the LCAP, and the state has spelled out severe consequences for mistakes, additional expertise was warranted. The full contract can be found at tinyurl.com/mnbyh2x.

Student Commendations

At the Jan. 26 meeting, the SCUSD board recognized Wilson High School student Claudia Moreno Camacho for completing high school and continuing her education at Mission College after a stroke that left the 16 year-old in a coma for two years; Buchser Middle Schooler Alex Morales who overcame significant personal obstacles to become an outgoing student with a 3.16 GPA; and Buchser Middle School student Derek Espinoza who turned around failing grades and misconduct suspensions to become a solid student and positive classmate.

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