Almanac

Schools - March 12, 2014

High school board puts bond measure on June ballot

by Dave Boyce

The ballot for the primary election on June 3 will include a proposed bond measure asking voters for $265 million in capital improvement funds for the Sequoia Union High School District.

Having already indicated at earlier meetings a preference for a June rather than November election, the district board gave the measure a unanimous vote on March 5. Member Carrie DuBois had expressed reservations about June, but voted with the majority.

Ahead of the vote, the board engaged in a few minutes of discussion and encouraging words for the co-chairs of the volunteer campaign whose task now is eliciting support for the measure among the district's 125,911 registered voters.

An analysis commissioned by the district estimated a turnout of 36.5 percent (45,328 voters) for a June election. State Proposition 39 allows school construction bond measures to pass if approved by 55 percent majority rather than the two-thirds majority required for most tax increases. With a 36.5 percent turnout, 24,930 voters would have to approve the measure.

Board president Allen Weiner recommended that the campaign use data analytics — a focus on individual voters through the analysis of data about them. The campaign needs to be smart about selecting audiences and matching them with bond measure projects, he said. "We want to be as lovely and attractive to all audiences as possible" and, toward that end, "to analyze and slice (data) in order to figure out how to target messaging," Mr. Weiner said.

If the measure passes, the district would have the funds to add classrooms and related facilities to address an expected increase in enrollment in district schools, including Woodside and Menlo-Atherton, of at least 20 percent over the next seven years.

With burgeoning enrollment now in the Menlo Park and Las Lomitas elementary school districts, M-A will experience a significant increase. The bond measure's project list would include a new high school in the Menlo Park area with a specific curriculum focus — art or science, for example — for 300 to 400 students.

This measure would add a tax of about $16 per $100,000 of a property's assessed value. The four bond measures passed by Sequoia district voters between 1996 and 2008 add up to a debt of about $30 per $100,000 in value. The 2014 measure would raise that to about $46.

The 2014 bonds would be paid off in 30 years. With interest payments included, the total cost to retired the bonds would amount to about $530 million, a district official said.

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