Tuesday, October 25, 2005

11 Bay Area School Districts Asking Voters for $1 Billion - mostly for buildings

School ballot measures top $1 billion
11 districts asking voters for money -- mostly for buildings

Simone Sebastian, Chronicle Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

More than $1 billion in new schools, fully equipped gyms and high-quality libraries could be in the future for 11 Bay Area school and community college districts if their voters approve the latest round of bonds and tax increases Nov. 8.

The proposed school-improvement measures continue what has become for some districts a regular plea for local support.

Opponents to the measures generally say residents have provided their fair share of funding by approving strings of school improvement plans in recent years. District officials respond by saying their aging facilities and paltry funding from the state have left them at the mercy of local taxpayers.

"The value of the funding we've been getting from the state is definitely declining in what it will buy," said Miriam Walden, a board member for the Albany school district, where a parcel tax worth $2 million a year is at stake. "We're looking at a situation that's not likely to get better."

Bonds need 55 percent approval from voters to pass; while parcel tax measures require a two-thirds majority. Here's a look by county:

San Francisco County

The San Francisco Community College District is asking voters to approve $246 million in bonds to finish several projects begun with a similar bond measure approved in 2001. The latest bonds would improve computer and laboratory technology, renovate classrooms and build facilities for upper-division and performing arts classes. Property owners would pay nearly $6 per $100,000 of assessed value.

Contra Costa County

Voters in the West Contra Costa County School District will vote on a $400 million bond to reconstruct 17 school buildings and improve others. Residents have a history of approving tax increases for school improvement, supporting three of the four ballot proposals since 1998. Still, officials for the 34,000-student district say it hasn't been enough to cover their $1.3 billion wish list of construction and renovation projects for dilapidated schools.

"We need to have the kind of facilities that enable academic achievement," said Glen Price, president of the district board.

The district qualifies for an additional $40 million in state funds if the bond passes, officials said. They estimate the bond will cost property owners an average of nearly $56 a year for every $100,000 of assessed value on their property.

Alameda County

The Castro Valley school district, in its third bond proposal since 1998, is seeking voter approval for $44 million to build classrooms and renovate campuses. Among the plans are a redesigned athletic complex at Castro Valley High School, a new library for Redwood High School and new middle school science classrooms.

If approved, the bond would cost property owners an annual average of nearly $29 per $100,000 of assessed property value, according to district estimates.

Pay raises and funding for existing athletic and academic programs are the focus of Albany school district's proposed $250 annual parcel tax on homes. It would raise about $2 million per year for seven years and would also pay for new mental health counselors at the middle school and high school as well as full-time librarians at all five schools. Nonresidential properties would be taxed 5 cents per square foot.

Marin County

In the Tiburon-Belvedere area of Marin County, Reed Union School District residents will consider a $13 million bond to construct a multipurpose building at Del Mar Middle School that would serve as a gymnasium and an emergency community shelter. The bond would also renovate athletic fields.

District officials estimate property owners will pay nearly $23 more per $100,000 of assessed value.

San Mateo County

Voters in San Mateo County will consider $544 million in improvements, ranging from a new elementary school to modernized engineering labs for college students.

At a cost of $468 million, administrators at San Mateo County Community College District propose to refurbish and equip computer, health care, and engineering labs on all three college campuses. Property taxes to pay for the bonds would jump by an average of nearly $13 per $100,000 of assessed value.

A new elementary school would be built in the Redwood Shores neighborhood of the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District if residents approve a $25 million bond. The annual property tax increase would not exceed $30 per $100,000 assessed value, according to district officials.

In the single-campus Woodside Elementary School District, a $12 million bond is proposed to build 14 new classrooms and reconstruct the student services building. The bond would cost residents $22 per $100,000 of assessed value.

The La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District has proposed a seven-year parcel tax raising about $200,000 a year. Board President Maile Springer said the money would raise salaries and provide more training for teachers. The tax would also fund library improvements, possibly by restoring library aide positions cut two years ago, she said. Residents will pay $100 per parcel if the tax passes.

The San Carlos School District is asking voters to approve a bond measure to fund $38 million in renovations on its six campuses that would include replacing roofs, upgrading electrical and heating systems and building new classrooms. Property owners would pay an average of about $30 per $100,000 of assessed value.

Napa County

In Napa County, residents of the Howell Mountain Elementary School District in Angwin will consider a $2.9 million bond to renovate the school building, including repairs to bathrooms and plumbing, computer technology improvement, and modernizing classrooms. Property owners would pay an average of nearly $25 per $100,000 of assessed value.

E-mail Simone Sebastian at sisebastian@sfchronicle.com.

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