Lucia Mar district to delay putting school facilities bond on ballot

clambert@thetribunenews.comMay 5, 2014 

South County voters won’t consider a bond measure to pay for improvements to local schools this year.

Lucia Mar Unified School District officials, who are working on a master plan outlining needs at all 18 schools and other facilities, said the timing wasn’t right to pursue a bond to pay for some of the improvements.

“I think we’ve passed the point of no return to do a successful campaign this year,” said Jeff Dixon, the district’s executive director of facilities planning, maintenance and operations. “All eyes are shifting to 2016.”

District administrators also researched hiring an election consultant but have no plans to hire one at this time.

“A successful bond campaign is something you should plan for (for) at least 10 to 12 months,” added Raynee Daley, Lucia Mar’s assistant superintendent of business. “Considering where we are in terms of now and November, it’s very apparent that now is not the time.”

South County voters have passed two school bonds in the past 20 years. After years of unsuccessful attempts, voters in 1997 passed a $24 million school bond to finance construction of Nipomo High School.

In 2004, voters approved a $21.35 million school bond measure for renovating Arroyo Grande High School.

In the meantime, district officials are finishing a facilities master plan to prioritize projects at each school and identify funding sources. Cost estimates will also be included in the plan, which is intended to be carried out over 30 years.

“I don’t have the itemized breakdown yet, but it’s going to be a lot of money,” Dixon said.

The school district board of trustees is set to consider a draft of the plan May 20. Final approval would be June 10.

Many of Lucia Mar’s schools were built in the late 1950s and early 1960s and are in dire need of repair.

Some schools badly need electrical and plumbing upgrades and repairs. Dixon said long-term plans also include replacing numerous portable classrooms with permanent buildings and bringing other buildings up to current construction codes.

“I think what the facilities master plan will show is that there are fairly monumental facilities needs in Lucia Mar, and clearly the revenues we have set aside and those we have coming for facilities will not be sufficient to meet those needs,” Daley said.

District officials are planning smaller projects in the meantime, such as modifying some school parking lots to improve student drop-off and pick-up locations, Dixon said.

The district is also using a little more than $700,000 to upgrade technology at its schools to support the rollout of new learning goals and standardized tests, said Tom Butler, the district’s assistant superintendent of instruction and curriculum.

The funds will be spread over two years and will pay for behind-the-scenes infrastructure upgrades such as Wi-Fi hot-spots, as well as computers and Chromebooks.

Dixon added in an email: “One of the most beneficial elements of having this plan done is that it will ensure that any improvements we make align with the bigger vision that each site (teachers, parents, principals, and support staff) helped develop.”

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.

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