July 19, 2006

School Board Decides on $103.5 Million Facilities Bond

After more than four hours of a nearly five-hour meeting on Tuesday, July 18, 2006, the San Leandro School Board decided on an amount of $103.5 million for a facilities bond to be placed on the November 7, 2006, ballot.

The meeting started with Board President Pauline Cutter reporting that no action was taken during closed session.

A school district attorney briefly reported on his consideration of a possible conflict-of-interest for Trustee Linda Perry, who lives near one of the properties under consideration for purchase for the freshman campus. He found that there was no economic conflict-of-interest nor was there any conflict that would prevent her from fully participating in discussions or votes concerning the school bond.

Superintendent Christine Lim started a presentation entitled "Potential 2006 Facility Bond, July 18, 2006" that addressed some questions raised by board members at previous meetings. Consultant Connell Lindh spoke first about the tax rate amount for a bond that he thought would succeed at the polls. He acknowledged that previous polling in 2004 and 2005 had resulted in maximum tax rates of $25 and $30 per $100,000 of assessed value, respectively. However, he stated that efforts in support of Measure A had raised awareness of school needs to the community and groups like the Rental Housing Owners Association and the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce to such a level that he recommended that the tax rate for the facilities bond not exceed $40 per $100,000 of assessed value. According to Lindh, the school district passed a 1997 school bond of $54 million and managed to obtain $34 million in matching state funds. He also stated that projects completed as part of that bond were on budget and completed six years ahead of schedule.

After a discussion on tax rates, Leo Ray-Lynch of WLC Architects said that shop renovations for the original SLAM space would cost $600,000 and the entire industrial arts building would cost $3 million. Increasing the capacity of the freshman campus from 750 to 800 students would cost $1 million and increasing the capacity of the arts education center from 450 to 650 seats would cost $5 million.

Mike Murphy estimated annual savings from modernization of lighting at $72,844, heating and ventilation at $10,800, and telephones (voice over internet protocol/VOIP) at $116,500. Removing the portables would save $100,000 in annual leasing costs.

Assistant Superintendent Leon Glaster estimated that matching federal grants from the E-Rate program could total $466,400 for upgrading the data networks at McKinley and Wilson and about $1 million for upgrading to VOIP.

Assistant Superintendent Cindy Cathey covered additional operating costs of a freshman campus and a 7th and 8th grade opportunity school.

Trustee Ray Davis began the discussion by noting that a previous study had shown that some items polled at more than 70% support and questioned Lindh about whether the $40 tax rate was really the maximum that could be sustained. Lindh replied that polls show overwhelming support for many things until they are considered with the associated cost.

Trustee Lisa Hague asked about the operational cost difference between a 750 and 800-student freshman campus. Cathey said that there was none.

When asked by Trustee Stephen Cassidy about the costs and scope of upgrades to the industrial arts center, Glaster responded that the $600,000 estimate would cover three rooms, including equipment. Glaster also noted that matching funds may also be available.

Trustee Rick Richards asked about projected enrollment and Glaster responded that it would be flat until 2025, according to demographic projections. Glaster also answered a question about classrooms by saying that there would be 28 classrooms for 750 students and 30 classrooms for 800 students.

The school board meeting was attended by about 42 people, 29 of whom commented on the facilities bond. Everyone who spoke was in favor of the bond, but for different reasons or for different amounts. Andrew Kopp of the San Leandro Community Action Network read a letter asking the board to support a minimum tax rate of $40 per $100,000 of assessed value along with a detailed list of priorities. John Sullivan, who owns rental property in San Leandro, asked the board to stay below the $40 mark and focus on maintaining and upgrading the existing facilities. Professional musician Laurel Rice spoke in favor of the freshman campus, noting that she had home-schooled her daughter because 9th grade at San Leandro High School was too overwhelming. San Leandro Chamber of Commerce CEO Heidi Finberg praised the School Board and administration for their "wonderful outreach effort" that educated the business community on the state of San Leandro schools.

Sabrina Ramirez, president of the San Leandro Teachers Association, said that while the performing arts center was a wonderful idea, it should not take precedence over modernization needs where classrooms are saunas when it's hot outside and meat lockers when it's cold. She said that 50 new teachers will be hired to replace those that left - many because of the working conditions. San Leandro Council Member-elect Michael Gregory promised to work with the school board on joint-use projects. Leroy Smith of Citizens for San Leandro supported a tax rate of $40 and said that it would be great to have the arts education center, but overcrowding at the high school must be addressed first. Charles Gilcrest pointed out that if there is justification to use a more favorable interest rate, the school board might be able to get another $3 to $5 million out of the same tax rate.

After a short break, the school board got to work on making decisions about the total amount of the bond and the projects to be funded by the bond. Deciding on the total amount proved to be rather easy, with overwhelming support for $103.5 million, the amount supported by a tax rate of $40 per $100,000 of assessed value assuming a 5% growth in assessed value annually, and a 5.25% interest rate. Trustee Davis wanted more, but Cassidy cautioned that they were already pushing the envelope at a tax rate of $40 and a higher amount would likely fail. Cutter and Perry both expressed concern that the school board stick to the $40 amount so that voters can be certain about the amount the bond will cost each year. The amount works out to $82.78 for the median San Leandro homeowner.

With a total amount of $103.5 million, each school board member listed their priorities on a spreadsheet consisting of 21 options each for new construction and modernization. The consensus choices became apparent very quickly. The final new construction choices totaling $61 million were:

Freshman Campus (off site with gym , 800 Students) - $38 million
Arts Education Center (AEC) - 450 seat capacity (26,260 sf) - $17 million
PG&E lot at SLHS - $4 million
SLHS Library Expansion (2,200 sf) - $0.9 million
Bancroft Parking lot (purchase only) - $0.4 million
Landscaping - SLHS campus - $0.7 million

Hague, Davis, and Richards originally wanted some of the bond to go for Burrell Field, but had to forgo Burrell in order to bring their total project list under the $103.5 million maximum and to gain school board consensus. Heystek was forced to do the same with expansion of the adult school as was Perry with the Jefferson multipurpose room. The landscaping item was the subject of much discussion with the school board trying to better describe the fact that the landscaping item would address making the front of the San Leandro High School and the arts education center into a place that is inviting and beautiful.

The final modernization choices totaling $42.5 million were:

ADA, Fire Life Safety - $2.1 millions
Replace Roofs - $10.7 million
Heating - Alt 2 - Abandon (E) & Install Package Heating - $9.6 million
Data Systems - LAN - baseline standard (Wilson, Monroe & McKinley) - $1 million
Restrooms - Alt 1 - Remove & Replace All - $5 million
Paint Walls - $3.9 million
Technology - Alt 1 - VOIP - $2.4 million
Lighting Modifications (replace classroom fixtures) - $6.3 million
Industrial Art Bldg (Shop Mod & equip) - $1.5 million

The $3.9 million for painting walls and $1.5 million for the Industrial Art Building was the result of a compromise from the $4.8 million original item for painting walls and $3 million for the Industrial Art Building.

Then it was back to normal school board business with the unanimous approval of consent calendar items, except for the approval of an Intra-District Transfer request form, which was pulled by Cassidy. The draft policy for intra-district transfers, which includes specific criteria for priority transfers and a lottery for non-priority transfers.

In closing remarks, Davis noted an article in the Saturday San Francisco Chronicle stating that students do just as well in public schools as they do in private schools. The article is based on a study entitled "Comparing Private Schools and Public Schools Using Hierarchical Linear Modeling."

Posted by Mike Katz-Lacabe at July 19, 2006 2:51 AM | TrackBack
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