School bond bid slated for Nov. 6 ballot
By Maureen Robertson
In a unanimous vote, Ramona Unified School District trustees agreed to place a $66 million bond bid on the Nov. 6 ballot.
If the measure receives the support of at least 55 percent of district voters casting ballots, property owners will see an increase in their property tax bills of about $60 per $100,000 of assessed value.
The money will be spent on specific projects at each of the district’s nine school sites and the district office. It also will help repay a $25 million district loan and will cover items such as project planning, assessment reviews, environmental studies, inspection and permit fees, and costs associated with borrowing.
The 75-word question that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot reads: “To improve the quality of education; repair/replace leaky roofs; increase student access to computers and modern technology; make health, safety and handicapped accessibility improvements; replace deteriorating portable classrooms; and improve energy efficiency; shall Ramona Unified School District acquire, construct, repair, equip school facilities by issuing $66 million of bonds at legal rates, with independent citizens’ oversight and NO money for employee salaries and all funds spent only on Ramona schools?”
Included in the voter information pamphlet voters will receive before the election will be the detailed project list and information about the citizens’ oversight committee state law requires the trustees to appoint. State law also requires annual independent audits.
The concluding paragraph reads: “No administrator salaries: Proceeds from the sale of the bonds authorized by this proposition shall be used only for the acquisition, construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or replacement of school facilities, including the furnishing and equipping of school facilities, and not for any other purpose, including teacher and school administrator salaries and other operating expenses.”
The $66 million measure trustees approved July 2 is $6 million more than the $60 million discussed at their June 25 workshop, but the tax rate of about $60 per $100,000 assessed value didn’t change.
During the workshop, the trustees agreed that San Diego County Taxpayers Association’s endorsement of the proposed bond is important. This necessitated a more detailed project list.
The taxpayers association asks how a district will address all its needs, Jon Isom of Isom Advisors said.
“Based on the preliminary project list, we concluded there was a $6 million shortfall,” he said.
By extending the period for issuance of bonds from 6-8 years to 8-10 years, the district will be able to get another $6 million with the same tax rate, Isom said.
An advantage of a bond is the local control it provides, and the state can’t take away the money, the trustees agreed. Improvements the bond will provide will affect property values and the community positively, they agreed.
Trustee Dawn Perfect said that when she talked with realtors, they said, “Anything that schools do in a community definitely increases those property values enough that that tax increase is insignificant.”
Based on comments from the leaders of the district’s two unions, the bond has the support of the Ramona Teachers Association and the California School Employees Association.
“This is the obvious choice,” said Michael Jordan, Ramona High School teacher and RTA vice president.
“Definitely, RTA is on board to do everything it can to pass the bond,” said Grant McNiff, James Dukes Elementary School teacher and RTA’s chief negotiator.
Ramona’s CSEA President Jim King also congratulated trustees.
“I’ve been in the district for 35 years (and) have seen quite a bit of deterioration in the schools,” he said.
Referring to previous school bond bids that failed, King said, “Hopefully this one will pass and we’ll get some stuff done.”
McNiff and King, however, had some critical words for the board. The district did not include employees in insurance discussions before proposing that they start contributing a percentage of health benefit premiums, McNiff said. The district now pays all health benefit premiums for participating employees and their families.
“It was very disconcerting,” McNiff said, later adding, “I have some other things to say, but I don’t want to burst the bubble.”
The district’s support staff is working hard to prepare schools for the start of next school year, King said.
“With the budget cuts and other things going on, I don’t believe that everything is going to get done that really needs to be done at the schools,” he said.
The custodians are stressing, he said, “because they want it to be perfect for the kids, but chances are it’s not going to be.”