Central Unified School District trustees hope the second time will be the charm for a $120 million bond measure and voted 5-1 Tuesday night to put it on the Nov. 3 ballot.
In the March primary election, Central Unified’s Measure C just missed the 55% voter approval margin needed for passage, losing by only 19 votes.
The new bond measure also would contain funds to complete phase 2 of Justin Garza High School, now under construction at Grantland and Ashlan avenues west of Highway 99, build a new elementary school, and modernize and repair some existing schools.
Board vice-chairman Jason Paul, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said he’s not worried that Justin Garza High will have a performing arts center, aquatics center, and other facilities someday.
But he told GV Wire℠ on Wednesday that he’s worried the financial impacts created by the COVID-19 pandemic will make it even harder to hit the 55% mark in November.
Will Voters OK Property Tax Boost?
Asking voters to pay an additional $58 per $100,000 of assessed value will be a tougher sell this time around, Paul said.
“I haven’t seen accurate statistics about how many people are out of work or who have had cuts in their household income,” he said. “I think that will influence voters.”
At Tuesday night’s board meeting, trustees agreed to amend the ballot language to make it clear that the high school project is the top priority, and also not to make it appear that every school would get some bond money spent on it just because all the schools were listed.
Trustee Terry Cox, who pushed for the revisions, said voters who think they’re getting something for their schools from the new bond measure will feel deceived when they learn almost all the funding would go to the high school and a new elementary school.
“There’s not enough money to have all those schools listed,” said Cox, who also noted that she was concerned about scheduling a bond measure election during the pandemic.
District Needs Spending Flexibility
Assistant superintendent Steve McClain said bond measure language needs to be broader so as to give districts more flexibility in spending as needed.
“Typically in my experience … projects are included because at times as you go forward, these bonds can be issued over a number of years, and sometimes priorities do change over time,” he said. “This year is a great example of the unknown effects of COVID and effects on different things with regards to school operations.”
Central Unified needs to get its bond measure resolution to the Fresno County Clerk’s Office by Aug. 7 to be on the November ballot. It will join Clovis Unified School District’s second bond measure attempt this year.
Clovis Unified’s Measure A, a $408 million measure that would have raised property taxes, was defeated by a wide margin. Clovis Unified trustees opted to trim the bond measure proposal to $335 million, much of which will pay for a new middle school-high school complex in southeast Fresno.