Voters look to embrace most school bonds by wide margins

Voters look to embrace most school bonds by wide margins

(Calif.) School bond measures appeared to enjoy another successful election cycle with 27 victories out of a total of 35 put before local voters statewide in Tuesday’s primary election.

Although some ballots are still outstanding, among the biggest winners appears to be Beverly Hills Unified, which asked approval to issue $385 million in bonds to pay for new school construction, and remodeling projects, as well as improved technology services.

With most of the vote counted, the bustling resort town of Mammoth is poised to approve a $63.1 million bond issue for school facilities, and the middle class community of Hawthorne also appears to have agreed to $59 million in borrowing for school improvements.

One of the disappointments is likely the $33 million bond that would have helped provide housing to teachers and staff of the Jefferson Union High School District. The novel concept, which would have provided 80 affordable rental units, was still just short late Wednesday of the 55 percent supermajority needed for passage.

Unlike other tax proposals, school bonds have traditionally won broad support among voters—even during tough economic times. It is not unusual that schools would sweep in local elections statewide.

It is noteworthy that of the eight school bonds that looked to have been defeated Tuesday, a number were in generally affluent communities such as San Mateo County—where the average annual income is close to $120,000.

Along with the Jefferson measure, voters in San Mateo County also narrowly losing was a proposal to sell $99 million in bonds by Cabrillo Unified that would have been used for repairs, new equipment and other facility updates.

Voters living in the upscale El Segundo area of Los Angeles County were on track to turn down a $29 million bond by Wiseburn Unified, while a $119 million bond for the Pleasant Valley School District in Ventura County also faced defeat.

Although voters in economically challenged parts of the state did turn down school bonds, there were also examples where they did not. Voters in the Ravenswood City School District, located in East Palo Alto, were set to approve a $70 million bond.

The effort to use school bonds to help with the teacher shortage is likely to be tried again.

In 2016, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that gave school district explicit permission to set aside housing exclusively for its employees and to take advantage of federal and state housing tax credits to develop the projects.

In San Mateo County, an estimated 60 percent of local employees live in another part of the Bay Area because of housing restraints. The issue has been even more critical to local schools where the district has long utilized signing bonuses and other incentives.

More than two years ago, officials at the San Mateo High School District explored building staff housing in Millbrae and in San Bruno. Meanwhile, the San Mateo Community College District actually developed some units for its employees.

Opposition to Measure J was led by the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association, which argued the district and its employees already has all the resources it needs.

“The district has so much money it compensates over 110 employees $100,000+ annually (for short school years),” the group said in its ballot argument. “They're better compensated than many taxpayers who would have to foot the bill.”

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