Bakersfield City School District trustees are poised to approve a $110 million facilities improvement bond measure Tuesday, which would be the fifth eight-figure school measure heading to local ballots in November.
BCSD would spend its money enhancing degrading classrooms and other facilities. If the board places it on the ballot, some voters would see three school bonds on their ballot; the others are a $280 million one approved by the Kern High School District and a $502.8 million one OK’d by the Kern Community College District.
People who live within the boundaries of all three of the following districts — the Bakersfield City School District, Kern High School District and Kern Community College District — will see nearly $900 million worth of bond measures on the November ballot. They would be paying for $208 million of the nearly $900 million, or about $100 a year, if all three bonds pass. The bonds could last as long as 25 years.
Four other districts in other areas have approved bond measures for November. More are considering them.
“We've never had anything like this,” said Mike Turnipseed, executive director of the Kern Taxpayers Association. “The last KCCD bond was in 2002 and the last Kern High bond was 2004, so this is the first time that we've had these triple-layer bonds.”
BCSD's bond is one of at least 10 possibly heading for ballots this election season as school districts contend with aging, deteriorating facilities. In addition, Kern County public safety officials plan to propose a sales tax hike to boost their budgets to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
School boards throughout the county have so far approved placing more than $1.2 billion in bonds on the ballot, according to the county elections office. At least another three districts may ask for $63 million (see graphic for detailed listing.)
The deadline for districts to place bonds on the ballot is Aug. 12.
The slew of bond measures comes on the heels of a successful primary season for schools. Four out of five school districts with ballot measures passed more than $50 million in bonds in June. Those measures required 55 percent voter approval.
But at the same time, Measure F, a sales tax increase that would have funded county libraries, failed. That tax required a two-thirds majority vote to pass; it received almost 52 percent approval.
At BCSD, administrators have developed a master facilities plan with a project list topping $835 million over 20 to 25 years. If the $110 million bond is approved in November, funds would go toward repairing and upgrading classrooms that are decades old and purchasing new school sites to accommodate student growth.
The district has not yet created a specific project list with itemized costs of construction and upgrades but has identified about $65 million in state matching funds for various developments, said Steve McClain, BCSD assistant superintendent of business services..
“We have some very old schools and it’s very evident in our district,” he said. “They’re an average of 50- or 55-years-old so we want to target those older schools especially. They’re not ready for the demands of 21st Century learning.”
BCSD’s $110 million bond measure competing against two other high-price bonds doesn’t faze McClain, who said that polling conducted by FM3 Associates, a Los Angeles-based research firm that also handled polling for KCCD’s $502.8 million bond, came back positive. More than 70 percent of respondents said in December 2015 that they were in favor of the district’s bond.
When asked again this month, 70 percent of respondents came back with the same answer, McClain said.
The 73,584 voters within BCSD's boundaries make up roughly 21 percent of those registered to vote for the Kern Community College District bond and 29 percent of those who can vote for KHSD’s measure, according to the latest voter registration figures.
“I think voters understand that their local education is very important and they want to support local school districts from kindergarten all the way up to college, so I think there's strong support all the way through,” McClain said.