In the last few months, board members and administrators have been reaching out to various groups to gauge support for the bond, said Superintendent Barry Groves. He himself had spoken with at least 20 groups, he said, including PTAs, the City Council and the Chamber of Commerce, and received "really positive" feedback.
The proposed bond would extend the current tax rate — $14.70 per $100,000 of assessed valuation — by six years. The current bond, approved by voters in 1995, was set to expire in 2024. Administrators say keeping the tax rate the same has resonated with those they've talked to.
"Your tax rate will be no higher than it is today," Groves said, "and it will extend from 2024 to 2030."
"As a board, we wanted to provide for our schools' future without creating a heavier tax burden on local taxpayers," said school board president Joe Mitchner in a statement. "This bond would provide ample planning for a smart, fiscally conservative plan before the schools become overcrowded, without an increase in the tax rate."
The primary purpose of the bond is to build new classrooms to accommodate for growing student enrollment. Groves said Monday that projections estimate the student population of the district's two comprehensive high schools will grow by 900 in the next 10 years — a 25 percent increase.
If that projection holds, administrators say, the facilities at Mountain View and Los Altos high schools will be overcrowded by 2012.
The bond would also pay for additional restrooms, earthquake and fire safety upgrades, security systems upgrades, updated wiring for classroom technologies and the conversion of teacher offices to science labs. Some "green" renovations are also on the bond project list, including the installation of photovoltaic solar systems, improving installation and replacing or upgrading inefficient boilers.
Those upgrades could save the district $400,000 annually in energy costs, administrators say.
From now until June, the district will work to promote the bond and address concerns the public may have. Because it creates its own oversight committee, the bond will require only 55 percent voter approval to pass.
Adult School budget
Also at Monday's meeting, trustees heard a presentation from Laura Stefanski, head of the district's Adult School, regarding potential cuts to her programs.
In the last two years, she said, the Adult School has seen a 25 percent reduction in funding due to cuts from the state. No new cuts were approved Monday, but the proposals presented, Stefanski said, would be an extension of several cuts that began last spring.
Joe White, the district's associate superintendent of business, said that despite those cuts approved in April, "When we received our allocation (from Sacramento) for 2009-10, it was $160,000 less than expected."
To make up for the shortfall, Stefanski proposed several cuts from various programs, amounting to 5.2 full-time employees and a savings of about $192,000.
The Adults with Disabilities Program, which once operated with 117 hours of instructional time, was shaved down to 60 hours in January. Stefanski proposed an additional 30-hour reduction and said that Hope Services, which helps runs the program, had agreed to backfill some of the cut services.
"I personally feel ... that we had way too many hours to begin with anyway," she said, adding that she believes the program will still provide students with practical academic training and courses for independent living skills.
Also among the proposals was a 5 percent reduction in hours in career services, where 30 percent of costs are covered by program fees.
"We pretty much froze that program instead of growing it like we wished to," Stefanski said.
Other programs proposed to take small cuts are the Young Parents Program, which provides support for teens with children, and a program that helps both adults and high school-age students get their diplomas. Stefanski said her staffers are receiving fewer referrals for those programs due to online learning, and that despite the reductions they are striving for the "same standards of learning."
The state cuts have been especially difficult in light of the bad economy, she said.
"We're cutting the very things that people want and need," she told the board. "Hopefully I'll come back in a few years and talk about building programs instead of dismantling them."