MVLA board approves bond measure | March 12, 2010 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - March 12, 2010

MVLA board approves bond measure

by Kelsey Mesher

After 18 months of "exploration," trustees of the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District voted 5-0 at their regular meeting Monday to place a $41.3 million bond measure on the June 8 ballot.

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."

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Posted by scot lee, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 12, 2010 at 7:38 am

I'm a teacher and I'm for schools and kids and all but really enough is enough. For a school district that pays their teachers the highest salaries in the state you would think the district could budget for ongoing maintenance of their facilities without "going to the well" for more. Between bond measures, and parcel taxes enough is enough.

Posted by Mike Laursen, a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 13, 2010 at 7:39 am

I'm all for well-financed local schools, but using a bond measure to deal with cash flow problems brought on by the recession seems like a misuse of what bonds are intended for. Don't know all the answers, but it seems like the first step is to cut administrative jobs by the same percentage as job losses in the private sector.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 16, 2010 at 12:30 pm

The bond is not to address cash flow issues. It's for long-term capital improvements. A side benefit of adding the energy upgrades (solar, etc.) is that is will free up around $400K per year from general fund money that is currently being used to pay the energy bills. But that is not the purpose of the bond. The schools are almost at maximum capacity now, and there are big enrollment increases coming up from the elementary districts. They need space for the kids who'll be flooding the campuses in the next 10 years.

Also, regarding the comments about salaries: The teacher should know that the pot of money that pays for salaries is not the pot that is used for buildings. Ed Code pretty much dictates what dollars can be spent on what. And you'd probably have to stop paying the teachers and administrators completely for a couple of years to have enough cash to do a facility upgrade. Bonds are how school districts pay for the buildings. It's not regular maintenance, it's upgrades and additions.

So if you want to take issue with the salaries, that's fine, but it's a different discussion.

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