To help deal with significant crowding and other concerns, the Panama-Buena Vista Union School District is looking to add a $90 million bond measure to the November ballot.
If approved, the measure would be paid over the course of 10 years at a rate of around $30 per $100,000 in assessed valuation per year. The district’s board of trustees is set to decide July 24 whether it will recommend putting the measure on the ballot.
“If this doesn’t happen, we’re going to be in a financial hardship,” said Glenn Imke, assistant superintendent of business services. “We would be very limited with the resources we have without a new bond. We have schools that are sufficiently overcrowded, schools that still need modernization and repair.”
If approved by voters, the measure would help fund the construction of three new schools, two elementary and one junior high. It would also go toward the construction of additional classroom buildings on existing sites as well as other upgrades to the schools.
The expansion or installation of new fencing, gates, locks, security lighting, alarms and video surveillance would also constitute a large chunk of the funding.
“We want to make sure our students are in the most conducive environment for their education, and this bond will do that,” said board president Keith Wolaridge. “All the bond money goes directly to students. None of it would be used for faculty needs or raises.”
Imke said the K-8 district, which covers mostly the southwest area of Bakersfield, has a significant need for funding. In doing a needs analysis, Imke said $500 million would be required to deal with all of the district’s needs.
“That seems like an insurmountable number, so we have to prioritize and work toward that in stages,” he said.
Much of the need sparks from the fact that the district is dealing with major crowding, mostly due to the rise in population in the southwest over the last several years.
For the past school year, the district had 18,684 kids, nearly 18 percent more than the district’s student capacity of 15,149. The district has grown more than 20 percent over the past 10 years.
“This measure will help alleviate some of the pressure at our schools,” Wolaridge said.
According to the district, there are 383 relocatable classrooms compared to 491 permanent ones, making up nearly 44 percent of total classrooms.
Imke said class sizes aren’t necessarily larger, however. They are capped at no more than 31 per class across all grades.
While class sizes are capped, the number of students allowed at each school is not, leaving schools to compensate by adding mobile classrooms to meet the demand.
Imke said an additional 2,355 students are expected to come to the district over the next five years, so a more permanent solution needs to come soon.
While taxpayers in the district likely see the need for more money for the district and may be in support of a measure, there’s more involved. If approved, residents would start paying for the bond in early 2019. However, residents will still have to pay off the district’s previous measure.
Measure P was approved in 2012 to address some of the same infrastructure issues, such as helping pay for the new Whitley Elementary School. It has also funded a one-to-one technology program and other improvements.
Initially billed as a $147 million measure, only $68 million in bonds have been issued for it so far, Imke said. Another $18 million bond would be issued starting in 2020 and paid over the course of 18 years.
Essentially, if the new measure is approved, taxpayers would be paying for both the new measure and about $86 million of Measure P for a total of about $176 million. Property owners in the district would be paying off Measure P through 2046 and 2038 for the new measure.
The district can't charge more than $30 per $100,000 of assessed value a year per measure, Imke said.
While Imke said he understands that the optics of having to pay for two measures at the same time isn’t great, he said it should be taken into consideration what property owners in other school districts are paying for bond measures.
According to California Municipal Statistics, Inc., the median assessed valuation in Kern County is $60 per $100,000. Even with two measures, the district would not be able to exceed that median amount.
Imke said it should also be recognized that with a 10-year program, taxpayers would pay less interest.
“More of their taxpayer dollars would be going to buildings, not interest,” he said. “As far as taxpayer burden, I think we’re doing a good job keeping as small as possible.”
If the new measure were approved, Imke said property owners wouldn’t have to pay the total $147 million as part of Measure P. They will only have to pay for the upcoming $18 million chunk, as well as the new bond.
“If we have a successful bond measure, we will promise that we’ll do one more bond sale in 2020 then request approval for county to close (the Measure P) bond,” Imke said.
Wolaridge said he’s excited for the prospect of a new bond measure.
“We’ve been excellent stewards of the previous measure, and we’re looking forward to bringing more services to the next generation of students at the Panama-Buena Vista School District,” he said.
If approved for the ballot later this month, the new measure would need a 55 percent majority in the November election to pass.