2016-10-21 / Front Page

Measure X: district’s plan to maintain aging campuses

Average age of SVUSD schools is 51 years old
By Michael Aushenker

As Nov. 8 rapidly approaches, many teachers, administrators and community leaders are pushing for the passage of Measure X, the local bond measure that would raise $239 million to refurbish, maintain and modernize Simi Valley Unifi ed School District’s aging campuses and fund technology needs.

If passed by 55 percent of voters, Measure X will authorize the district to sell $239 million in general obligation bonds over the next 10 years, said Ron Todo, SVUSD’s associate superintendent of business services.

In crafting Measure X, the district earlier this year hired San Diego-based consultant Balfour Beatty to determine the cost of SVUSD’s long-term needs. The needs assessment report found SVUSD will require about $498 million to keep campuses running at full strength through the next 15 years.

Understanding the high price tag would likely be unpalatable for voters, district officials decided to ask for $239 million instead. The bonds would then be paid off by local property taxpayers over 30 years at an estimated rate of $39 per $100,000 of assessed value. The total estimated payoff, including interest, after 30 years would be about $485.7 million.

“That was the tax rate we felt was appropriate for our community,” Todo said.

While SVUSD, which has a total of 1.9 million square feet of property to maintain, has yet to determine which projects would be addressed first with the bond money, priorities include roofing upgrades, replacing old heating and air conditioning systems, and maintaining plumbing infrastructure at its 28 campuses. The average age of SVUSD’s schools is 51 years.

An estimated $71 million from Measure X will be earmarked toward keeping classroom technology current.

None of the funds can be used for salaries of teachers or administrators, Todo said.

Matching funds

If Measure X passes, the district will be required to assemble an independent citizens’ oversight committee. This ICOC—made up of seven to 12 community members, including at least one member of a taxpayers association, appointed by the school board—will monitor the distribution of funds and ensure the money is spent efficiently.

Of the $239-million pot, SVUSD will cash out funds in $60-million increments, or series, every three years starting in mid-2017.

“You’re supposed to spend within three years what you cashed out,” Todo said, which means all the funds will be spent within the first 13 years or so.

According to the district’s needs assessment report, Simi Valley and Royal high schools require the most funding for campus improvements and modernization—$ 22 million and $20 million in projects, respectively. Also among the top in necessary upgrades are middle schools Valley View at $13.2 million, Sinaloa at $12.6 million and Hillside at $12.3 million.

Todo said the district may qualify for an estimated $50 million in state matching funds if both Measure X and Proposition 51 are approved by voters Nov. 8.

The $9-billion Prop. 51 will generate $3 billion for new construction and another $3 billion in repairs for K-12 schools, $2 billion for community college facilities, $500 million for K-12 vocational educational facilities, and $500 million for charter schools.

On the tax roll

Simi Valley property owners are already paying on two other school bonds.

The $35-million Measure A bond approved in 1989 currently has property owners paying about $20 per $100,000 in assessed value, while 2004’s $145-million Measure C4 collects about $42 per $100,000 in assessed value.

“The 1989 bond funds will drop off the tax rolls in the next couple years,” Todo said. “If (Measure X) passes, we will work with our bond advisor to try and structure the sale of the first series (of bonds) as ‘forward funding’ so that the 1989 bond will fall off the tax rolls before the first payment is paid by homeowners for Measure X.”

That means taxpayers would not actually begin paying off Measure X until about 2019, when the total tax rate would likely increase by about $20 per $100,000, depending upon fluctuations in the city’s assessed value.

Emphatic support

While some residents have spoken out against Measure X, the initiative has no organized opposition.

The Simi Educators Association, California Teachers Association and Simi Valley PTA/ PTSA Council, unified under the umbrella of the Schools of Tomorrow Committee, emphatically support the passage of Measure X, which they see as a sensible solution for picking up the slack for California’s post-Recession budget cuts to schools statewide.

“We’re not getting money (from the state) like we used to,” said Bill Daniels, clerk of the school board. “We’re not even getting as much money as other states.”

Bond supporters say the district’s modernization efforts will help make SVUSD a more inviting and competitive school district and stem declining enrollment. At its recent peak in 2013-14, SVUSD counted 18,316 students enrolled. Currently, 17,100 students are attending for the 2016-17 school year.

For more information about Measure X and to view the district’s needs assessment report, visit www.simivalleyusd.org/ bond.

Darleen Principe contributed to this report.

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