Mountain View Whisman board approves $259M school bond measure for March 2020 ballot

Property owners would pay $30 per $100,000 of assessed value; funds to repair and expand schools

The Mountain View Whisman School District is asking voters to approve a $259 million bond aimed at fixing old school facilities and preparing for a surge of new students caused by rapid housing growth in Mountain View.

The measure, unanimously approved by the school board Thursday, will appear on the March 2020 presidential primary ballot. Though the school district would reserve broad discretion on how to spend the money, the priorities laid out at the Nov. 21 meeting made clear that more classroom space is needed at schools that are expected to grow by as many as 220 students.

The bond would cost property owners $30 per $100,000 of assessed value, and needs to win 55% of the vote to pass.

For years, district officials have raised alarm bells about Mountain View's rapid residential growth and the strain it will put on schools that have neither the space nor the money to support an influx of families with children. Large swaths of the city with little or no housing, including the North Bayshore and East Whisman areas, were recently rezoned to allow up to 15,000 new housing units.

The bond measure would instead focus on a less obvious issue: Dozens of smaller residential projects that are farther along and could start impacting schools in just a few short years. The latest count shows a cumulative 6,638 housing units in the pipeline, with 1,929 already under construction and 2,854 given the go-ahead by the Mountain View City Council, according to city staff.

A Nov. 5 analysis by demographers found that, once built, these units are going to add an estimated 580 elementary school students and 309 middle school students to Mountain View Whisman, primarily at its campuses located north of El Camino Real. Theuerkauf faces a 66% increase in students from 332 today to 552, according to the report, an additional 181 students at Vargas Elementary and 120 more students at Landels Elementary.

Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph said some schools can handle the growth -- Theuerkauf is big enough to realistically house a total of 672 students. Landels, on the other hand, is already close to capacity before enrollment jumps by an estimated 27%. The recommended fix, he said, is going to be new two-story classroom and administrative building that will cost more than $30 million.

"This is by far the most expensive growth adjustment that has to happen," Rudolph said.

The cheaper option, which the board could consider at a later date, would be to redraw attendance boundaries to shift students from Landels to Castro Elementary School, which is already dealing with space constraints of its own. Doing so would likely mean adding portable classrooms to the campus or moving the preschool program at Castro to another site.

The school district would also prioritize $103 million in projects across all district campuses aimed at improving safety and boosting energy efficiency. For safety, the district is seeking to build what it's calling "perimeter controls," including fences, gates and lighting along walkways, playgrounds and parking lots. Solar power, better windows and improved heating and air conditioning are among the efficiency projects that would be added to every school.

The resolution officially putting the measure on the ballot, however, was more open-ended, including a wall of text listing everything from broken concrete and carpet replacement to new parking lots, welding shops and upgraded kitchens as permissible uses of bond funds. Resident Gary Wesley said board members should pare down the list and more clearly show how the money will be spent, arguing it goes against the spirit of state law. Under California's Proposition 39, school districts only need 55% of the vote to pass a bond measure if they provide a specific list of projects.

"There are some things you should identify in this measure as mandatory so that any board that comes along has to actually do those things," Wesley said. "But if you go with this, it's a relatively blank check and it will be opposed and you will run the risk of losing."

Former board member Steve Nelson also spoke in favor of more rigid spending priorities baked into the language of the resolution.

Rudolph said the school district's Facilities Master Plan, which was reviewed for the first time by the board at the same Nov. 21 meeting, lists $777 million in potential school facility upgrades and clearly delineates top-priority projects that could be financed through the upcoming bond measure. He suggested that board members take formal action to approve the prioritized list, which he said would take a supermajority of the board to retract. This would would give a sense of assurance to voters, Rudolph said.

Funding for schools has risen to the fore as a major concern as residential projects and new and planned zoning changes are poised to increase the city's housing stock by as many as 20,000 units, or about a 75% increase to the city's current housing, according to city staff. Estimates vary on how much it would cost school districts to buy the land and build the school facilities needed for the thousands of students generated by the growth, but it could reach as high as $1.2 billion.

Who gets stuck with the bill has been an ongoing debate that has at times frustrated district administrators and school board members. On the books, the city has policies that say developers in North Bayshore and East Whisman must help schools house additional students, but the lack of clarity in terms of a dollar amount or land dedication has been a major stumbling block. A recent study by the city indicated that housing projects simply won't get build if the burden of school fees is raised too high.

The upcoming bond measure is not going to give developers in North Bayshore or East Whisman a free pass. The bond would be used for the Mountain View Whisman School District's "immediate facilities needs," and will not be sufficient for the more significant long-term growth, district spokeswoman Shelly Hausman told the Voice in an email.

"As plans for residential developments are finalized, (the district), the city and developers need an agreed-upon consistent school strategy; one that would provide for student growth without all the burden falling on the district," Hausman said.

In addition to long-term plans to build one or even two additional elementary schools, district officials are also considering a massive overhaul of the Crittenden and Graham middle school campuses to significantly increase their capacity. Doing so would require two-story classrooms and relocating district functions offsite, which would cost an estimated $176.3 million at Crittenden and $145.3 million at Graham -- more than the entirety of the bond on the March ballot.

The trajectory of residential growth in the district, which is unevenly distributed and will have a more profound impact on schools north of Central Expressway, also means the district may need to consider revising its attendance boundaries again, Rudolph said. Although the last round of boundary changes took three years of contentious debate and only took effect in August, Rudolph said the district is going to need to find a more streamlined way of responding to demographic shifts.

"We do not need to have a three-year ramp-up to change the boundaries," he said. "It really should happen ... within one calendar year to the next."

The full bond measure resolution can be read here. The resolution was amended at the meeting to correct multiple typos and change the dollar amount of the bond from $256 million to $259 million.

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14 people like this
Posted by JW
a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2019 at 2:27 pm

That’s a lot of money.

134 people like this
Posted by Ok
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Nov 22, 2019 at 2:51 pm

Shouldn’t the new homes bring additional revenues to the school district?
Why the answer to any problem is additional tax burden on the current residents?

119 people like this
Posted by What about the state?
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2019 at 3:41 pm

What about the state? is a registered user.

Why can't the state of CA, which has a massive surplus, kick in some money to build needed schools? It seems like that should be state government's job. This is a tough sell to tax ourselves to build schools for people who don't even live here yet.

3 people like this
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Nov 22, 2019 at 4:33 pm

Anyone who walks through MV's K-8 campuses or talks to its teachers know a new bond is necessary. Not because the 2012 Measure G failed, but rather because you can see the real-life benefits the added technology, classrooms, fields, and performing arts centers paid by the past bond bring to better student experiences. A new bond allows MV to further that progress.

However, the proposal to require a supermajority of a future board (4 of 5 trustees) to change priorities set by the current staff and board via a simple majority (3 of 5) is bad policy. Especially when the plan identifies $777 million of potential school spending, yet it's a $259 million bond, and community outreach and input on the formation of the priorities were modest.

Locking in the priority list does not honor the voters who most won't have the time to read the full list, binding future policy changes to a supermajority basically locks out future elected boards from having practical control over the bond, all the while, still giving the district staff the internal wiggle room to direct tax dollars as they see fit.

If there was a supermajority restriction in place in the last bond, there would not be the performing arts centers at the middle schools. Anyone who has gone to a hackathon, concert or musical at those venues knows those were smart community investments, despite initial district staff resistance to them.

The reality is that immediate bond plans (which account for the $259 million) are actually quite good. Yet the district has muddied the conversation by mixing in talk of the future growth plans (which are actually not really part of this bond). Yet messages on this board already reveal that confusion because the district itself mixes talk of the two.

Grand school facility plan predictions have never hued close to reality once you get past a few years, too much changes: demographics, boards, and superintendents. The immediate plan MVWSD will be putting before the voters is a solid plan as long as it, and they, keep their eye and message on the immediate benefits to current residents.

39 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Nov 22, 2019 at 6:29 pm

Gary is a registered user.

I do not know where the Superintendent got the idea - if he did - that a board could vote for a master plan and require any changes to be approved by a super-majority of the board. If there is such a law, cite it. Such a proviso could have been placed in the language of the bond measure to be approved by voters. But I do not see on the meeting video any discussion of such an addition. There is a brief discussion of added language about "priorities" that I will read before taking a position on the measure. If the superintendent and school board got it wrong, they could place a better measure on the November ballot - if this one fails on March 3.

1 person likes this
Posted by @Gary
a resident of North Bayshore
on Nov 22, 2019 at 8:03 pm

Link to the meeting discussion on super majority voting: Web Link

14 people like this
Posted by Standing Ovation
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 23, 2019 at 6:53 am

It's interesting how a first-time superintendent like Rudolph, with basically zero experience in handling such multi-million dollar bond measures, speaks so confidently. His past record of blunders should signal caution to voters. And the School Board is hardly any better. Only one member, Wheeler, has any depth of experience, albeit presiding over a steady decline in achievement among the the very class she has long claimed to champion, the socio-economic disadvantaged. Coupled with Vargas Elementary still no connected to power grid, one only wonders the treats this motley crew has in store for us down the road as the tax and spend while, if the past is any measure, delivering meager results at top dollar.

I'll say it again. The only solution is to fire or recall every last one of them and start over with totally new and highly qualified people befitting of this area of high achievement and technological wonder. Until that happens, don't expect anything but the same.

18 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Nov 23, 2019 at 8:20 am

Gary is a registered user.

So I checked the link above to the school board meeting video starting 47 minutes in. The topic was mental health - not the bond measure or draft the facilities master plan. Maybe that is the joke. I have made a Public Records Request for a copy of any school district record that identifies any law that would permit a school board to require a super-majority to later make changes to, here, a facilities plan. I will be surprised if there is any such law. As I expressed above, the district can be bound by the terms of a bond measure approved by voters. The video of the meeting shows that AFTER CLOSING PUBLIC INPUT the Superintendent referred to a written, previously distributed amendment to the proposed bond measure language and the school board voted for the bond measure language as amended. I have now requested the amendment under the PRA. No amendment was made available to the public at the meeting. This superintendent and school board seem to have little regard for public input. This district borrowed and spent $260 million for capital improvements since 2012. The district's leaders now want to borrow and spend another $260 million - as the next step. Let's take a hard look at that. On Monday, another school board will meet about another possible bond measure. Another $900 million for Foothill-De Anza. Already on the March 3 ballot is a state school-college bond measure: $15 billion.

185 people like this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 23, 2019 at 8:34 am

I am very much in favor of improving our schools in every reasonable way possible. But, not this way.

There seems to be an incredible hurry by the city council to add as many residents as rapidly as possible to our small city. The current residents are going to be overwhelmed by the change to their lifestyle, with a terrible impact in traffic (which the city disingenuously denies) and with the ugly transformation of our one and two story city to a city of seven story monstrosities.

To add insult to injury, they want us to pay for the new schools for the students that they are forcing on us. I would prefer that the new developments pay for their projected impact, rather than forcing us to pay.

The bond measure should be divided into two parts. I would vote for improvements to existing schools for existing students. I would vote against paying for new schools to support the students that I do not want in such sudden and overwhelming numbers. They are currently tying the two together into a single measure, and giving themselves great discretion as to which of their goals will get the bulk of the money. I don't trust them.

I will vote no.

62 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 23, 2019 at 10:06 am

Steven Nelson is a registered user.

This Board has voted to refill the empty construction coffers with new tax money, shortly after the multi-decade borrowing from the last 2012 Bond was used up.
The Board did not amend the legal language to require "old roofs" and "40 year old" classroom heating equipment be taken care of first. Bullet points and bold text do NOT set any legal priority for Citizen Oversight to help enforce. The items were "priority one" for the 2012 Bond project "laundry lists" in SFIP (but Trustee Chiang for instance voted to ignore that). This lack of LEGAL focus, on but a small fraction of the spending list, happened before and can easily happen again!
A simple future Board meeting-quorum-majority (2 or 3 Trustees) can ignore old roofs and old HVAC or ANY other FIRST PRIORITY project, as happened during my term in office. Only the Bond Measure explicit text LEGALLY controls. BTW, the project list covers 26 lines, 239 words and over 30 items, any of which are legal to include or exclude!
Although some promises were make by the District in a 2012 public mailer, those very specific promises were never delivered ("$500,000 per year" in operational savings from old HVAC upgrades for instance).

Thank you former Trustee Chiang for your continued public commentary participation.

Steven Nelson, retired MVWSD Trustee

4 people like this
Posted by Diablo
a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 23, 2019 at 5:27 pm

I had something to say, but the second coming by "OK" said it far more succinctly than I would have.

I will add though that I consider these bond measures an end-run around prop tax limits originally set up to protect people. And I'll be needing a senior exemption on that, like I got with another recent school-related property tax add-on. Prop 13 passed as a way to keep seniors (on a fixed income!) from being taxed out of their homes. It ain't sexy but it's the hard facts for many seniors. These bond measures keep chipping away at that, along with the 2% annual tax increases that over the long term add up to a very significant amount.

17 people like this
Posted by Richard Michael 909-378-5401
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2019 at 9:37 am

Using public moneys to influence the outcome of an election is a felony - Education Code 7054 and Penal Code 421(a). Public moneys are used to print and distribute ballots and voter information guides.

Bond counsel approved the sales pitch on the ballot statement that is illegal under AB-195 and other election law. The ballot statement violates all three sections of Elections Code 13119.

This is a sales pitch designed to elicit a "yes" vote.

"MOUNTAIN VIEW WHISMAN SCHOOL DISTRICT CLASSROOM REPAIR/OVERCROWDING MEASURE. To provide safe/modern classrooms, arts/science labs at neighborhood schools for quality education; relieve student overcrowding; replace aging roofs, inefficient heating/ventilation systems; upgrade, acquire, construct classrooms, facilities, sites/equipment; shall Mountain View Whisman School District’s measure authorizing $256,000,000 in bonds at legal rates, levying $30/$100,000 assessed value ($18,600,000 annually) while bonds are outstanding, with independent oversight, audits, no funds for administrators, all funds controlled locally for Mountain View schools, be adopted?"

Nothing in the Elections Code authorizes a local governing body to add a title to a measure. It's a pure sales pitch. What voter wouldn't be in favor of "REPAIR?" What voter wouldn't be in favor of relieving "OVERCROWDING?"

Education Code 15122 requires the "maximum interest rate," which is 12%, on the ballot statement. "at legal rates" is clever lawyers at work to prejudice a vote for the measure.

Education Code 15272 requires the district to disclose that the board appoints the oversight committee (it's not independent) among other things.

Elections Code 13119(b) requires the "duration of the tax," which is 25 to 40 years, on the ballot statement. "while bonds are outstanding" -- once again, clever lawyers at work. The tax rate statement that has the estimated duration is not with the resolution.

That's how the district cheats to get voters to pass a measure.

There's not a single "specific" school facilities project in the measure, violating Proposition 39 and making the oversight committee and the audits completely superfluous. The measure purports to allow the district to spend the money on anything it wants, after it is passed.

The Constitution prohibits bond proceeds to pay, among other things, "teacher or administrator salaries." Think again. Last paragraph of measure changes that language and states "TEACHER AND SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR SALARIES." Clever lawyers include language that purports to allow district to reimburse itself for, yes, "DISTRICT ADMINISTRATOR SALARIES." Superintendent and board are depending on the stupidity of the voters to be fooled by the sales pitch. Isn't the school district an expert at producing stupid voters?

Both the Constitution and Education Code 15100 prohibit using bond proceeds for repairs. Repairs are operating expenses.

Then, of course, there is an oversight committee that the governing board stacks with cheerleaders. The oversight committee is totally in the thrall of the board. Oversight is a fraud on the voters.

Is the governing board knowingly and wilfully violating the law to win an election? #HonestBallots

18 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2019 at 11:01 am

I think we have been down this road before. Why do we need more and why did the listed items from Measure G not get completed, the same repairs are listed in both bonds?

The text from 2012 Measure G

“To protect quality education in Mountain View, provide safe and modern classrooms, and make
schools operate more efficiently, shall the Mountain View Whisman School District remove
hazardous lead/asbestos materials, improve earthquake safety, upgrade fire alarms/security, replace
outdated and inefficient plumbing/electrical/heating/ventilation, update computers/technology, and
upgrade, acquire, construct schools, sites, facilities and equipment by issuing $198 million in bonds
at legal rates, with independent oversight and all funds spent on local elementary and middle

The text from current bond proposed

"MOUNTAIN VIEW WHISMAN SCHOOL DISTRICT CLASSROOM REPAIR/OVERCROWDING MEASURE. To provide safe/modern classrooms, arts/science labs at neighborhood schools for quality education; relieve student overcrowding; replace aging roofs, inefficient heating/ventilation systems; upgrade, acquire, construct classrooms, facilities, sites/equipment; shall Mountain View Whisman School District’s measure authorizing $256,000,000 in bonds

3 people like this
Posted by MV is crazy
a resident of Rex Manor
on Nov 30, 2019 at 4:46 pm

So when do the renters start paying for the schools? MV is supposedly 60% renters who probably majority use the schools. Why do the 40% who own have to always pay for supporting the schools? People used to say renters still paid for these measures through increased rent but now with rent control I doubt that's true.

Turns out it's a terrible deal to buy in MV you end up paying for everyone else. Either live rent and tax free in an RV or buy in another city as this city govt makes no sense. I can't wait to move to a better city. Sorry I wasted 15 years of my life here.

8 people like this
Posted by happy
a resident of Rex Manor
on Nov 30, 2019 at 6:04 pm

MV is crazy, I'll be happy to take your property off your hands. How about we make a fair trade with the assessed value of it? Since that's all you're contributing to the property tax rolls, and you think it's way too much, that's obviously a fair deal. I'll even let you live in an RV out front afterwards since you think it's so nice.

As for being sorry you wasted 15 years of your life here, well let's just say the feeling is mutual.

2 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 1, 2019 at 11:26 am

Steven Nelson is a registered user.

Yes, we did go down this road before (as we will and must again). The specific projects, and waste or frugality, will be completely decided by a future Board majority. There are over 30 specific items, a few very broad in the Measure legal project list. Any item (pick and choose "laundry list") is legal for the Administration to ask the Board to approve. Any order of items-first-in-line.

It is not illegal for a Bond attorney to suggest language in a Measure and the Ballot summary. That is what they are hired and paid for.

"Quid pro quo" (we are all aware of what that Latin phrase means now) is to be expected, from the various lawyers, architects, financiers, builders and construction unions into the YES CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE. Not into the District, to pay for the election costs, but into multiple mailers, and internet and newspaper 'advertising'. Like the former Bond advertising - there is now in the Measure - the preposterous debunked-by-research idea that building spending will "ensure" MVWSD students will be as prepared as Los Altos SD students for high school. Pure poppycock!

"Quid pro quo" MV Voice coverage of complaign fund contributions for previous Bond. 4/29/2012
Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by Referendum
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 4, 2019 at 8:56 pm

It will be a pleasure to vote NO on this pile of pork as a referendum on that Turkey currently acting as Superintendent. He is doing a terrible job, especially with capital planning. Get rid of Rudolph first. Then possibly ask for added funding. The fake indication that there is future super majority requirement for use of the bond money is just an added reason to vote no.

Plus, there are going to be so many measures asking for cash on the ballot. Foothill is making a big ask too. And MVLA recently had one authorized. It's just too much investment. The district should concentrate on its achievement gap more than prettying up facilities still more. Saying there is projected growth is a terrible reason. That growth is not at all certain, and it is not at all certain to be too much for the current expanded capacity already in place. They can grow by 20% as it is. So ask in ADVANCE to growth more than that, just as it is looking like things will hold steady rather than icnrease? Something smells fishy here.

Like this comment
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
17 hours ago

Steven Nelson is a registered user.

Referendum. - I am personally not yet really to stuff the giblets into the Turkey that you mention. If a Board is lax in it's duty (a Board majority) it will let the architects and administrators 'set the agenda' and 'set the timetable'. We will see if the newest Trustee, Conley - has enough guts to Move: Table the Motion / we don't have enough discussion yet for our priorities recommendations! If the electorate is fine with this current level of planning, and going into further public debt 8 years from the approval of the last Bond, that is their choice! If the electorate thinks - SLOW THINGS DOWN PLEASE, the borrow and tax Measure will not get the 55% approval needed.

Maybe we are back, as then Voice reporter Nick Veronin wrote, to the pre 2012 Board where they rarely asked deep questions or changed administration recommendations.

BTW "no quid pro quo" was the exact use of that Latin phrase that MVWSD administration was quoted as using in the 2012 Campaign (Nick Veronin reporting)! I have been hearing and reading that phrase a LOT recently in US House committee investigations!

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