Templeton school district voters will be faced with whether to increase their property taxes in order to pass a new bond measure this November that would help fix up school buildings and classrooms.
The measure is the only ballot issue for Templeton Unified School District this year because its five-member board of trustees has only three candidates running for three open seats. Two newcomers and one incumbent will be seated in January.
The ballot initiative, Measure H-12, would allow the district to issue up to $35 million in general obligation bonds for facility improvements, namely, replacing 65 aging portable classrooms, which make up the majority of the schools’ teaching space. It would also go toward equipment such as new computers, energy-saving solar panels, interactive whiteboards and LCD projectors.
The money would go in a restricted account and can’t be used for general fund purposes such as salaries or pensions.
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“It 100 percent, exclusively has to be used for facilities and equipment not personnel or consultants,” Superintendent Joe Koski said.
The measure also requires an annual audit and that all expenditures be approved by an independent citizens’ oversight committee.
Under the bond, homeowners living within the school district would be charged $60 per $100,000 of assessed value per year, which equates to $5 a month per $100,000 of assessed value, according to district documents.
The school district’s boundaries are different than those of Templeton Community Services District and include the areas of Templeton as well as the outskirts in southern Paso Robles and parts of Atascadero. For a map, visit http://tusd.ca.schoolloop.com.
With $412,490 as the average assessed value in the school district, the average taxpayer would be spending nearly $250 extra per year with the measure in place, Koski said. Assessed value is typically less than retail value.
A similar bond was Measure C, a tax voters first authorized in 1976 and then reauthorized in 1990 where homeowners paid 28 cents per $100 of assessed value.
The school district used the last $235,000 of that revenue on a modernization project completed this year at Templeton Middle School. The project, also funded with a $400,000 private donation, brought the school a new gym, entrance and a handful of refurbished classrooms.
But with the portable classrooms needing to be replaced over the next decade at about $200,000 each, Koski said there’s no more money for improvements amid state budget cutbacks.
As it is, the school district has cut 20 percent from its overall budget each year since the 2007-08 school year.
Last year, the school board approved filling the district’s deficit with $1 million in reserves, starting the current school year off with $2.7 million in savings. That’s about $2 million more than minimum rate of 3 percent of its general fund that the state requires schools to keep.
Over the last five years, the school district had pared back its budget by leaving vacant positions unfilled, doing layoffs and stopping home-to-school busing.
In January, the school board will be faced with another year of mounting state budget cuts and declining reserves as administrators work to fill continuing deficits.
They will also be tasked with “keeping high quality staff supported and motivated given the tremendous workload they have shouldered the last five years, Koski said.
School board incumbent Phil Keohen, general contractor Kevin Hamers and speech pathologist Shirley Sigmund will join existing board members Lisa Hammond and Nelson Yamagata.