Over the Hill

Why voters should support Paso Robles schools and approve Measure M-16

A lunchtime fight was possibly sparked by racially motivated comments Wednesday at Paso Robles High School.
A lunchtime fight was possibly sparked by racially motivated comments Wednesday at Paso Robles High School. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Our school district here in Paso Robles is asking us to authorize up to $95 million worth of school bonds.

We will vote on them by mail or in person in Tuesday’s election. It’s Measure M-16 on the ballot.

I was surprised to see the official Voter Information Pamphlet didn’t include an argument against the measure. Voter information pamphlets usually include the texts of ballot measures, impartial analyses and the arguments for and against.

The pamphlet did include an “Argument in Favor of Measure M-16,” signed by a rancher, the county superintendent of schools, a pastor, a wine owner and a businessman. But there was no argument against. The pamphlet simply said, “No argument against measure M-16 was submitted.”

And I haven’t noticed much opposition to M-16 in ads or letters to the editor. I also don’t remember finding any in my mail. Of course, we’re so flooded these days with election ads and pronouncements that I might have missed it.

Or maybe this school bond measure just isn’t controversial. Maybe it has little or no opposition. I hope that’s true, because I’ve made up my mind to vote for it, even though it would raise my property taxes. I just think it’s for a worthy cause and probably won’t hurt me too much.

Paso Robles school district Superintendent Chris Williams said the best estimate of the average tax rate needed to repay the bonds is $47.75 per year per $100,000 of the assessed valuation on your property. For the house Mamie and I have owned for 34 years, I figure this new tax would be about $75. The assessed value of our house is less than its market value. That is often the case.

The official full text of the bond measure includes 1 1/2 pages of lists of proposed projects that may be financed by the bonds. They include some new, permanent classrooms at most campuses and the removal of portable classrooms.

Other listed items include a new two-story classroom building at Daniel Lewis Middle School, a new cafeteria at Flamson Middle School, the removal of existing buildings and the construction of new ones at the Marie Bauer Preschool, the building of a new library and multipurpose room at Georgia Brown Elementary School and many other projects throughout the district.

Yes, $95 million is a lot of money, but it doesn’t go as far as it used to. I toured the present high school on Niblick Road when it was just built in 1980. It cost about $8 million then, but today it would cost much more. Mamie and I bought our present house in 1982 for $91,000. Today, it might cost about $350,000.

If you are opposed to issuing $95 million in school bonds, you may want to go to school board meetings and suggest other ways to improve our schools. You also could apply to be appointed to the Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee. It will be formed to ensure the bond money is spent only for items specified in Measure M-16.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 805-238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.