In a special meeting on Feb. 27, Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) board voted unanimously to place a general obligation bond before the voters to fund development of new schools, and repairing and upgrading existing facilities within the district.
The board has yet to determine whether the measure will be on the ballot in June or November. At the meeting the Board also approved the allocation of $500,000 for community outreach and education.
The reason for the delay is a challenge in formulating the ballot language. “We probably will change the language and the resolution,” Board President Andrew Ratermann said.
Originally, the board’s plan was to review and approve a resolution calling for the bond measure to be placed on the June 5, 2018 ballot. Changes in state law dictate that certain financial information be included in bond measures. At the same time, the ballot statement is limited to 75 words.
“New wording requires including information about the financial cost of bond. [But] we can’t say what we are doing or why we need it. This was a concern for us,” Ratermann said.
The original text of the ballot measure would have been one page and would have included a paragraph stating the effect of passing the measure and five paragraphs on bond accountability measures.
The measure would have read “To construct classrooms, labs and school libraries to support student achievement, college readiness, and career training in math, science, engineering, technology, and arts; acquire, renovate, construct, and equip facilities to improve older schools; to fix deteriorating roofs, plumbing and electrical systems, shall Santa Clara Unified School District issue $875,000,000 in bonds, repaying an annual average of $46,803,661.23 in 39 years at 5 cents per $100 of assessed value, with independent citizen oversight, and all money staying local?”
An abbreviated version conforming to the new wording requirements would consist of one paragraph only with financial information and no subsequent explanatory paragraphs. An amendment to the law is currently being considered in Sacramento.
This change would allow the ballot question to be stated in the following way and without the detailed financial information: “To construct classrooms, labs, and school libraries to support student achievement, college readiness, and career training in math, science, engineering, technology, and arts; acquire, renovate, construct and equip facilities to improve older schools; to fix deteriorating roofs, plumbing and electrical systems, shall Santa Clara Unified School District issue $875,000,000 in bonds, with independent oversight, and all money staying local?”
Research from True North Research firm in Encinitas, CA showed that the financial disclosure reduced voter approval slightly, but even so the measure narrowly passes. The bond needs 55 percent voter approval to pass.
SCUSD has passed four school bond measures in the last two decades. In 1997, Measure B passed for $145 million. In 2004, Measure J passed for $315 million. In 2010, Measure J passed for $81 million. In 2014, Measure H passed for $419 million. The District’s current need is $1.5 billion, but the board is only asking for slightly more than half that amount.
“The community has said they will probably pass the bond,” Ratermann said. “The kids will suffer if we don’t.”
Regular SCUSD board meetings are twice per month. Agendas can be accessed at www.SantaClaraUSD.org.