In 1976, voters approved a tax override measure that was an excellent funding source for schools. The measure called for the formation of the Atascadero Unified School District Facilities Services Corp. and the appointment (by the school board) of five local citizens to oversee the funding measure.
Over the past 30-plus years, those funds have been used to build the new administration building at the high school, San Benito Elementary School, the gymnasium and cafeteria at the junior high and make improvements on every school site in the district, from Atascadero to Santa Margarita, Creston and the Carrizo Plain.
It was called a tax override because it allowed the district to utilize funds generated above what the formerly approved tax rate brought in. As the district’s assessed valuation grew, it took less tax money to raise the funds for general operation of the schools. So that “override” funding could be used on school construction and improvements. That override expires next year.
It was an excellent funding source that was easy on the property owners and provided millions of dollars in school building funds. No money went to salaries and benefits.
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I know this because I have been one of those five directors for more than 20 years.
The school district trustees have agreed to place a similar bond measure on the November ballot. The impact on taxpayers would be slightly lower than the current rate.
I’m pleased the trustees have taken this step.
Tonight the board members will consider how some of that money will be spent.
Up for consideration is a new junior high school campus.
Getting the former Lewis Avenue Elementary School and now junior high out of the middle of Atascadero’s downtown has been in the city’s general plan for many years. With the school gone, that property could become available for commercial development in the future.
The school district already has property on which to build a new junior high school.
The trustees will discuss that issue tonight. In order to use bond money for a new junior high school, it has to be included in the bond election ballot language so voters know what they are approving.
I urge the trustees to make a commitment tonight to use some of the bond money for the construction of a new junior high school on property outside the downtown area.
New school construction and renovation funds, removal of the junior high from downtown and all at a reduced impact on the taxpayer are reason enough for Atascadero voters to get behind this effort, including a positive vote by the trustees tonight on this issue.