Union Democrat staff

No, it's not a good time to be asking voters for money.

But for two of Tuolumne County's school districts, it is a necessary time. With budgets stretched to the breaking point, the schools have no way to pay for needed campus maintenance and improvements. Help from the taxpayers is essential.

Measures G and H, before Summerville High School and Sonora Elementary School district voters on Nov. 2, deserve passage.

Measure G, an $8 million bond issue, is an extension of Measure Q, a

$9.9 million bond passed by more than two-thirds of Summerville

district voters in 1998. Measure G would continue campus improvements

begun by Q and, among other things, would upgrade computers and

servers, improve the rickety, deteriorating Thorsted Field bleachers

and make required handicapped- access improvements throughout the high

school's Tuolumne grounds.

Measure H, a $7.8 million bond issue, marks the first time the

Sonora Elementary District has gone to voters since 1969, when bonds

for construction of the new Greenley Road campus were passed. Now that

campus, opened in 1973, is deteriorating.

Measure H would fund overdue electrical improvements, a plumbing

and water-meter overhaul to bring adequate fire flows to campus and new

or remodeled classrooms to replace portables plagued by mold and dry


Both measures require 55 percent approval margins and have the unanimous support of their respective boards.

The high school's Measure G will not raise property taxes, but

instead will extend Q's rate for 20 years. The tax rate would not

exceed $30 per $100,000 in assessed valuation.

Sonora Elementary's would set a $25 per $100,000 rate until the bonds are paid off, typically 25 to 30 years.

With housing values down, homeowners may be paying less. Campaign

literature for H estimates that the cost for the average homeowner will

be about $2.70 a month. That's far less than treating yourself to

breakfast at a your favorite cafe every 30 days.

Others may wonder why the two schools just don't pay for the needed improvements out of their regular budgets.

It's because the districts can barely pay for teachers with their

operating funds.The ongoing recession had stretched budgets tight and

income from the state is uncertain.

Summerville High, with an increasing enrollment, has cut more than

$500,000 from its 2009-10 budget. Although teachers have not been laid

off, administrators are taking furloughs and pay cuts and the

district's secretary was laid off.

Money to complete the campus master plan, which Q began? Not a chance.

Sonora Elementary, with the highest enrollment of any Tuolumne

County elementary school, this year cut its budget by $600,000, laid

off two teachers and cut hours for employees remaining. Nothing's left

in the larder.

On the plus side, foothill voters have historically recognized the

importance of education and have supported recent bond issues.

In 2004, Yosemite Community College District voters, including

those in Tuolumne County, passed a $226 million bond issue. More than

$50 million of the total was allocated to Columbia College, which has

benefited from construction of a new science lab, child development

center, public safety headquarters, auto shop and more. Property for a

Calaveras County satellite campus in Angels Camp has also been


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.

These bond measures have not only added needed campus improvements,

but have spurred local economies and created construction jobs.

While the recession is temporary, the investment we make in the

education of our children will pay dividends for decades to come.

Measures G and H deserve our overwhelming support.