News

MVLA to gauge support for green bond

The local high school district is moving forward with its proposal for a green bond measure. The next step: Poll the public.

"In the next two weeks we'll be doing a poll to gauge likely voter interest in the measure," said Barry Groves, superintendent of the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District, after a trustees' meeting Monday.

Groves said he plans to "bring back to the board the results of that poll," which then will be made public.

The bond would be a "no tax rate increase

general obligation bond," meaning it would not increase tax rates, but could extend the duration of a current tax. The district hopes to place it on the June 2010 ballot, where it would require 55 percent voter approval.

The district's poll would gauge public interest in proposed plans such as adding additional "green" classroom space, updating insulation and adding solar panels. The overall plan, administrators say, would reduce energy use and, in the long run, bring down overall energy costs.

In past discussions about the bond measure, Joe White, the district's chief financial officer, estimated that the renovations could cut energy costs by as much as 70 percent.

Though the district has not calculated exact figures, White estimated the bond would be between $40 million and $50 million and could extend the current tax by about five years. He emphasized to the Voice, however, that these were only "preliminary" numbers.

Jared Boigon, a partner with public financing consulting firm TBWB Strategies, presented the polling plan to the board. He said his firm, which has helped put many local education-related bonds and parcel taxes on the ballot, believed in MVLA's bond measure.

Boigon told trustees that due to rising enrollment in the elementary school district and an "era of unstable state funding," the proposed facilities program would allow the high school district greater flexibility.

But he noted that at least 75 percent of voters do not have a direct connection with the high schools, and that means they are a "little bit out of touch" with its needs. The survey will help gauge the support of those voters, he said.

The district is spending $17,500 on TBWB's services, which administrators say is standard procedure for moving forward with a proposal like this.

"This really tells whether or not you're going to have a successful bond measure," White said.

Boigon echoed past worries from some MVLA administrators about seeking financial help during tough economic times. But he said he was optimistic because the bond would not increase tax rates, only extend the duration of a current tax.

"If we're conservative with the amount of money" being asked for, he said, voters should support the measure.

The results of the MVLA poll are expected to be ready for the next regular board meeting, scheduled for Nov. 9.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by LFM
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Oct 30, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Interested to see the math on this. Insulation is good but the ROI on solar is generally not there unless solar prices comes down. It tends to be more of a feel good thing and an environmental statement. Makes more sense to work this into the scheduled building rehab plan over a 10+ year period. It all seems somewhat defocusing from the educational mission.

Of course if there was matching stimulus funds coming from Washington that may change things!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bruce England
a resident of Whisman Station
on Oct 30, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Of course, return on investment calculations will need to be completed, and any grant opportunities will need to be explored, but the value of giving our students first-hand experience with alternative energy technology must not be underestimated. In my view, MVLA's embarking on this is not just a "feel good thing" and should be understood as an important part of any educational mission.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by vfree
a resident of Waverly Park
on Oct 30, 2009 at 8:28 pm

Let me save you some time and money...NO


 +   Like this comment
Posted by KD
a resident of Waverly Park
on Nov 2, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Sounds like a great idea.

Give the school district $40-50 million so they can "reduce energy use and, in the long run, bring down overall energy costs". No mention what they would do with the savings. Perhaps increase other spending (within a district that already has the highest paid teachers and adminstrators in the state)?

How about we let the bond measure expire and then allow each and every taxpayer within the district spend the savings as they see fit.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Martha
a resident of Waverly Park
on Nov 11, 2009 at 1:27 pm

The bond will also increase capacity, which will be needed. Based on current enrollment in Los Altos and Mountain View Whisman elementary districts, there will be an increase of around 900+ students in the High School District in the coming decade. The equivalent of putting another elementary school at both Mountain View and Los Altos High schools. They currently are close to capacity as it is. Unless they can add rooms to hold the students, they will have terrible overcrowding problems.

Also, adding the solar technology will save the district around $400,000 to $500,000 per year in electricity costs. This money will then be kept in the general fund to provide programming for the students, which will be very helpful as school funding keeps getting squeezed. Every bit will count.


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