Trouble is, Los Altos High School is already packed to the gills, and Mountain View High isn't too far behind. Board member Fiona Walter, a member of the campaign, said the district has fought to keep class sizes low and has always hired enough teachers to handle the increase in extra students each year. But the district is at a point where there's simply no classroom space left, and even getting around the campus has turned into a challenge.
"If you want to see a full campus, go to a passing period at Los Altos when there's only 10 minutes to get to class," she said. "You just can't do it, it's just jammed."
The argument in favor of Measure E, filed with the county Registrar of Voters last month, argues that projected enrollment growth means the district will need dozens of new classrooms, along with major upgrades to cafeterias, libraries and other ancillary facilities that were never designed to serve upwards of 2,000 teens.
"Top-notch teachers and innovative award-winning academic programs make our (schools) among the best in the nation, keeping property values and our community strong," according to the argument.
The argument was signed by Walter, Mountain View councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga, Los Altos councilwoman Mary Prochnow, former Mountain View Chamber of Commerce CEO Carol Olson and Larry Chu, owner of Chef Chu's.
Similar to past school bond and tax measures, tax-averse groups like the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association filed arguments against Measure E, calling it an unnecessarily expensive ask just eight years after the district passed the $41.3 million Measure A bond, which financed new classroom construction and energy-efficient projects. Measure A was passed as a means to handle growing enrollment for at least the next decade, and the argument calls into question why this bond is seven times more expensive this time around.
"Now just eight years later, they're back, again, for $295,000,000 of your money to do the same thing all over again," the opposing argument states. "It's amazing how quickly classrooms and technology deteriorate."
The argument was signed by Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association president Mark W.A. Hinkle and Jennifer Imhoff, chair of the Libertarian Party of Santa Clara County.
Walter pushed back, and said it would be wrong to conflate the role of Measure E with Measure A — the latter of which had a small but important scope of building badly needed new classroom wings, solar installations and classroom modernizations. She said the new classroom wings are not being replaced with Measure E projects, despite the claims in the opposition argument.
"We needed those classrooms, and they're beautiful and they take nothing out of the Measure E bond — they're done," she said.
The template for how the district plans to spend the money is spelled out in the Facilities Master Plan, which was completed earlier this year and shows an itemized list of roughly $300 million in projects across the district, primarily at Mountain View and Los Altos high schools. It proposes adding a net increase of 28 new classrooms, and demolishing the oldest, run-down portables and buildings dating back to the 1950s and 1970s.
Walter said district staff and trustees "absolutely" intend to stick to the plan, but the rebuttal to the argument in favor of Measure E — again signed by Hinkle and Imhoff — says there's no requirement or guarantee that the district won't stray from the project list.
"Measure E only promises that the money will be used for the "types of projects" listed. Bate (sic) & switch?" the rebuttal states.
Bonds dating back several decades show the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District has a fairly austere track record, asking for relatively bite-sized bond measures in the 1990s and again in 2010. An analysis by the firm Isom Advisors found the district has the lowest tax rate among 32 school districts in Santa Clara County by a large margin, costing taxpayers a rate of $10.70 per $100,000 of assessed value. Passing Measure E would increase that rate by $30 per $100,000 of assessed value.
The Measure E campaign kicked off in March with a big contribution of $40,000 from Kramer Project Development Company, Inc., a San Jose-based construction management firm that has a long history with Mountain View-Los Altos. The company has managed projects for the district since 2008, including Measure A projects, and helped the district put together the Facilities Master Plan and the forecast costs of each project. The firm did not respond to requests for comment on the contribution.
District officials have described the master plan for months as striking a careful balance between fiscal responsibility and state-of-the-art facilities, which doesn't exactly lend itself to cheer-leading campaign slogans. Walter said she believes Measure E will bring great facilities to students in the district, but that it stops short of granite countertops and other decadent amenities.
"My example is that it's not a 1960s Chevy but it's also not a Porsche," she said.
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