News

Editorial: Yes on Measure T

Supporting Mountain View Whisman schools is essential as city grows

The Super Tuesday ballot is a crowded one, with several bond and parcel tax initiatives to benefit public education, including Mountain View Whisman School District's $259 million Measure T bond. The bond, which requires a 55% yes vote to pass, would cost district property owners $30 per $100,000 of assessed value annually.

While being wary of tax increases is understandable, particularly with several measures stacked on the March 3 ballot, we believe Measure T is a worthwhile and necessary investment to improve school facilities, expand to handle short-term growth, pay off debt from past projects, and provide affordable housing for district teachers and staff. Just as property owners benefit from Mountain View's reputable schools, local districts are dependent upon support from property owners to maintain the quality schools they have come to expect.

Unlike the district's 2012 Measure G bond, Mountain View Whisman trustees approved a list of priority projects for Measure T that allocates nearly all of the $259 million, which should prevent delays that have hindered past projects and allow some wish-list items that weren't prioritized in the previous bond to get done.

Just over $102 million of the bond would go toward improvements at all of the school sites, ranging from safety and efficiency upgrades like perimeter fencing and new windows to extra storage space for teachers. Another $34.8 million in funds are earmarked for short-term growth. Reports from November indicate that the school district needs to be ready to house an additional 889 students in the coming years, and that some sites, like Landels Elementary School, are not currently equipped for an influx of children.

Measure T funds would not be spent on addressing future residential growth in the North Bayshore and East Whisman areas of the city, as the funds could easily be swallowed up trying to build a single school in North Bayshore. But with the city's population slated to jump by 75% in the coming decades, the district needs to start tackling growth now so students in the short term won't be negatively impacted, and to keep the district from being bogged down by too many project demands in the future.

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About $60 million in Measure T funds would address a byproduct of the region's job and population boom -- the dire lack of affordable housing. Under a deal with the city of Mountain View and a developer, the school district will contribute $56 million to help design and build a 716-unit apartment complex on W. Middlefield Road in return for full control of a 144-unit building that it can then lease out to teachers and staff. Without Measure T, the district does not have a clear way to pay for the upfront construction costs of the housing. It would be one of the largest teacher housing projects in the Bay Area and could serve as a model for workforce housing -- not to mention what it could do for teacher retention locally.

Measure T would also help the district pay off $40 million in outstanding debt that was borrowed against future revenue from leasing out former school sites in order to finance new construction. This would not only free up $2.6 million in cash that could go to classrooms instead of debt repayment, but also provide a pathway for the district to sever lease agreements and reclaim former school sites -- which could be essential given the projected future growth.

Opponents of the bond initiative are critical of the district's spending plan -- pointing out that it includes projects that were supposed to be addressed with Measure G funds -- as well as the ballot language itself. Despite the project list, the funds could be used to finance practically any school-related construction project. We believe overly specific ballot language could hinder the district, whereas having a spending plan provides specificity while still allowing for flexibility for the 'what-ifs,' as school board member Laura Blakely told the Voice. Trustees and district officials are well aware they would be held accountable for any perceived transgressions.

Much has changed in Mountain View since the district's last bond initiative, Measure G, passed in 2012, and more housing development is on the horizon -- meaning more residents and a projected influx of 2,500 additional district students over the next 20 years. Measure T doesn't address this long-term growth, but taking that population boom into account, voters should approve this initiative to take care of some of Mountain View Whisman's needs now rather than wait for more issues to mount. Vote yes on Measure T.

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Editorial: Yes on Measure T

Supporting Mountain View Whisman schools is essential as city grows

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 9:08 am

The Super Tuesday ballot is a crowded one, with several bond and parcel tax initiatives to benefit public education, including Mountain View Whisman School District's $259 million Measure T bond. The bond, which requires a 55% yes vote to pass, would cost district property owners $30 per $100,000 of assessed value annually.

While being wary of tax increases is understandable, particularly with several measures stacked on the March 3 ballot, we believe Measure T is a worthwhile and necessary investment to improve school facilities, expand to handle short-term growth, pay off debt from past projects, and provide affordable housing for district teachers and staff. Just as property owners benefit from Mountain View's reputable schools, local districts are dependent upon support from property owners to maintain the quality schools they have come to expect.

Unlike the district's 2012 Measure G bond, Mountain View Whisman trustees approved a list of priority projects for Measure T that allocates nearly all of the $259 million, which should prevent delays that have hindered past projects and allow some wish-list items that weren't prioritized in the previous bond to get done.

Just over $102 million of the bond would go toward improvements at all of the school sites, ranging from safety and efficiency upgrades like perimeter fencing and new windows to extra storage space for teachers. Another $34.8 million in funds are earmarked for short-term growth. Reports from November indicate that the school district needs to be ready to house an additional 889 students in the coming years, and that some sites, like Landels Elementary School, are not currently equipped for an influx of children.

Measure T funds would not be spent on addressing future residential growth in the North Bayshore and East Whisman areas of the city, as the funds could easily be swallowed up trying to build a single school in North Bayshore. But with the city's population slated to jump by 75% in the coming decades, the district needs to start tackling growth now so students in the short term won't be negatively impacted, and to keep the district from being bogged down by too many project demands in the future.

About $60 million in Measure T funds would address a byproduct of the region's job and population boom -- the dire lack of affordable housing. Under a deal with the city of Mountain View and a developer, the school district will contribute $56 million to help design and build a 716-unit apartment complex on W. Middlefield Road in return for full control of a 144-unit building that it can then lease out to teachers and staff. Without Measure T, the district does not have a clear way to pay for the upfront construction costs of the housing. It would be one of the largest teacher housing projects in the Bay Area and could serve as a model for workforce housing -- not to mention what it could do for teacher retention locally.

Measure T would also help the district pay off $40 million in outstanding debt that was borrowed against future revenue from leasing out former school sites in order to finance new construction. This would not only free up $2.6 million in cash that could go to classrooms instead of debt repayment, but also provide a pathway for the district to sever lease agreements and reclaim former school sites -- which could be essential given the projected future growth.

Opponents of the bond initiative are critical of the district's spending plan -- pointing out that it includes projects that were supposed to be addressed with Measure G funds -- as well as the ballot language itself. Despite the project list, the funds could be used to finance practically any school-related construction project. We believe overly specific ballot language could hinder the district, whereas having a spending plan provides specificity while still allowing for flexibility for the 'what-ifs,' as school board member Laura Blakely told the Voice. Trustees and district officials are well aware they would be held accountable for any perceived transgressions.

Much has changed in Mountain View since the district's last bond initiative, Measure G, passed in 2012, and more housing development is on the horizon -- meaning more residents and a projected influx of 2,500 additional district students over the next 20 years. Measure T doesn't address this long-term growth, but taking that population boom into account, voters should approve this initiative to take care of some of Mountain View Whisman's needs now rather than wait for more issues to mount. Vote yes on Measure T.

Comments

Local Resident
Rex Manor
on Feb 27, 2020 at 6:32 pm
Local Resident, Rex Manor
on Feb 27, 2020 at 6:32 pm
16 people like this

MVWSD hasn’t a clue on how to handle money, period.
Many of us still remember this district handing over Slater School to Google. BIG mistake. Disastrous spending for Castro School. Low test scores no accountability. Voters are now finally paying attention. NO on T.


Gary
Sylvan Park
on Feb 27, 2020 at 11:04 pm
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Feb 27, 2020 at 11:04 pm
17 people like this

The Superintendent and his school board could have stated in Measure T how the money would be spent. They refused. if Measure T passes (which is likely with the special interests bankrolling the campaign and this newspaper's going along), the uses will be determined by whoever is Superintendent and on the school board in the years ahead. Read the ballot arguments in your county voter guide.


Steven Nelson
Cuesta Park
on Feb 28, 2020 at 12:17 pm
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
on Feb 28, 2020 at 12:17 pm
10 people like this

There are some very good proposals (not enforceable by a new Bond Oversight Committee) that the MVWSD has put forth in Board Meetings. But, as noted above, they are not enforceable. Any Board Majority (3 of 5) can alter the choices of any previous Board concerning facilities spending / old borrowing payback. The Board showed no desire to constrain EVEN A QUARTER of the money to high priority items like Old Roofs and Old Heating/Air Conditioning or Borrowing Payback (COPs).

I just think that is bad government. There is also some bad administration in the three recent facilities projects: all have significantly overrun their 10% construction contingencies. This now eats into the General Fund. (see recent Questions From Trustees postings). Without an experienced "construction" chief business officer at the MVWSD, I personally think this will continue [wish for the best though]

been there, done that


bleh
Cuesta Park
on Feb 28, 2020 at 5:12 pm
bleh, Cuesta Park
on Feb 28, 2020 at 5:12 pm
5 people like this

The whisman school district is absolutely awful with money. Literally any time I hear about the districts administration, its always about how they didnt allocate funds correctly and then asking for more money.

No matter how much more money we give the Whisman school district, they will change their ways. This is an easy choice for me: NO


Christopher Chiang
North Bayshore
on Feb 28, 2020 at 7:59 pm
Christopher Chiang, North Bayshore
on Feb 28, 2020 at 7:59 pm
4 people like this

A well-funded school system leads to better governance. Measure T deserves a YES vote.

School bonds are notoriously vague in their details, relative to other bonds on Tuesday's ballot, Measure T is far more detailed than the others. Some may recall that part of the Prop 13 (1978) deal, which dramatically cut CA school spending was a shift to partial local control of school funding.

Those who grew up in CA before Prop 13 (1978) remember how good CA schools were, and people did not complain about governance. Yet when dollars are short, rash decisions are made, and crises often replace thoughtful planning.

Fund your local schools, and then pay close attention to your school board elections in November. There is not a single example of a district short of funds of attracting top talent. Don't confuse MVWSD for MVLA, MVWSD will have financial troubles without Measure T. Vote YES on the funds, Yes on T, and then in November, vote for the best people to be stewards of them.


Ron
Blossom Valley
on Feb 28, 2020 at 9:10 pm
Ron, Blossom Valley
on Feb 28, 2020 at 9:10 pm
2 people like this

Between measures G, H, and T, my family's property tax bill will increase by ~$1,000 a year. Due to the new $10,000 limit on state and local taxes (SALT), we can no longer deduct property taxes from our Federal taxes. Although G, H, and T each have their merits, the combined tax increase is simply too much at one time for me to support it as a homeowner.

I will vote NO on T, and would encourage other homeowners to consider the financial impact on their households.


Wool Over Eyes
another community
on Feb 29, 2020 at 2:39 am
Wool Over Eyes, another community
on Feb 29, 2020 at 2:39 am
1 person likes this

Even with this wool they keep pulling over my eyes, I can see that something is very fishy with Measure T. The issue is similar to Measure G for Foothill/Deanza, but not exactly the same. MVWSD is not truly specific about how they will spend the money, which they need to be to use a 55% majority Prop 39 bond like this. So it could be challenged in court as they reserve the right to change their minds. They cannot do that. But what is truly horrifying is the crud they cite as being something they want to spend money on. Adding extra restrooms to the parks near each school so that kids on the playing fields don't have to go back to the classroom area to "go." Isn't that sort of a luxury? During school hours the kids are under supervision on the playing fields, and they aren't there for very long stretches of time. So this is just for the few cases where a kid needs the restroom while being supervised outside the classroom. During lunch and recess they should have easy access to the schools' existing restrooms. Sorry to get down in the weeds, but this could be a very expensive construction project for NOTHING,
or at best an extreme frill.

The other types of things they state an intention to splurge on are equally distressing. Almosst nothing that is truly for educational purposes. What is this school district doing anyway, if not educating our children?

Vote No. They need to save bond money for true needs. They don't have the true needs covered in the description of this bond, in a way that is legally executable. They are trying to get away with cheating on using the 55% "win" percentage.


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