By BRENNA SWIFT
The Union Democrat
Summerville Union High School District’s Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to put an $8 million bond measure on the ballot this November, seeking funds for school facility renovations and repairs.
The bond issue would extend Summerville High’s 1998 Measure Q — which authorized the district to sell $9.9 million in bonds — by an additional 15 to 20 years. A similar proposed extension, Measure G, was voted down in 2010 by a narrow margin.
Board members have said they felt that better marketing to the public will help the bond measure pass this year.
Summerville High Superintendent John Keiter noted the bond money is needed to improve “deteriorated unsafe conditions” and outdated facilities.
“It’s what you do to support the kids in the community,” he said. “I’m really excited to give our community the opportunity to do that.”
Projects to be undertaken if the bond issue passes would include the replacement of outdated and undersized art classrooms, repairs to athletic facilities, technology upgrades and more.
The measure’s new taxes wouldn’t go into effect until the existing bonds from Measure Q are paid off, Keiter said. Currently, district homeowners are taxed about $40 for every $100,000 of assessed value under Measure Q. The new bond issue would entail $30 for every $100,000 of assessed value, Keiter said.
“It’s not much when you really think about it,” he added.
Mi-Wuk Village resident Jerry Morrow voiced opposition to the proposed bond issue at Wednesday’s meeting, arguing that it would place too heavy a burden on taxpayers.
“People in this county are drowning,” Morrow said. “We need to be able to come up for air. … We’re just being killed as taxpayers. I respectfully, again, ask you not to put it on the ballot in November.”
Also present at the meeting was Greg Isom of Isom Advisors, a Walnut Creek-based consulting firm that worked with Sonora Elementary School District on the passage of its bond measure in 2010.
Isom said Summerville’s bond issue will have a better chance of passing this time around, since the November election is a presidential one.
“Generally speaking, higher-turnout elections tend to favor school districts,” Isom said.
He added that the 2010 election reflected “anti-tax” sentiment and a sour economy that has since improved, a point with which Morrow disagreed.
“It’s a matter of just educating your voters,” Isom said. “We can improve on what we did two years ago.”
In response to a question by Morrow, Isom said that his typical consulting fee for school districts is $60,000 to $75,000 when bond issues are passed by voters.
Placing the Summerville High bond issue on the ballot required approval by four of five board members. To pass in November, it needs a “supermajority” of at least 55 percent voter approval.
Pursuant to California education code, Summerville’s Board of Education would then establish an independent citizens’ oversight committee to ensure proper use of the money. The funds would not be used for salaries or operating expenses.
The Sonora Union High School District Board of Trustees decided Tuesday that it would place a general obligation bond issue of roughly $23 million on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Like Summerville High, the district is seeking to repair and renovate facilities.
Isom, who is working with both districts, told Summerville’s board on Wednesday that the two proposed bond issues shouldn’t affect one another’s prospects on the ballot.
Only voters within Summerville district boundaries will vote on the Summerville bond issue, and the same rule applies for Sonora High district boundaries.
In recent years, several other Mother Lode school districts have benefitted from bond issues.
Residents of the Big Oak Flat-Groveland Unified School District passed a $9.3 million bond issue in 2005 to finance projects that included the modernization of Tenaya Elementary School.
Sonora Elementary passed its $7.8 million bond issue, Measure H, in 2010 to fund classroom construction, plumbing overhaul and other projects.
In 2008, Bret Harte High School District voters approved an $18 million bond issue that has built new science labs and classrooms and a school and community-use pool in Angels Camp.
Bret Harte recently received news that it will get an additional $2 million in state funding for its construction projects.