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|San Luis Obispo, Monterey County, CA||November 2, 2004 Election|
Schools Need to be Treated at Least as Well as Sewers
By Robert "Bob" McLaughlinCandidate for Governing Board Member; Paso Robles Joint Unified School District
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The construction of schools in California is a nightmare of rules and game-playing that only the skilled can win.Paso Robles has been a model for having fine schools, but the future is uncertain. School board members need to be aware of the issues and encourage the administration and designers to find creative solutions that avoid increasing local taxes when ever possible.
In the last eight years I have built three schools, a library, and modernized an old school. With a $10 million local bond, I was able to bring in over $40 million more in state grants to complete all the projects with no further impact on local property taxes. It was a fight all the way, but it was worth it.
As new residential development comes to Paso Robles, the city or county must be encouraged to treat the need for new schools at least as well as they treat the need for new sewers. The city makes developers provide all the infrastructure like sewers and water and storm drains for a new development so it does not increase the taxes of existing local residents. But they don't do that for schools because, in part, schools are their own jurisdiction. However, cities and counties can make it hard for developers unless they have the support of the schools. That forces developers to meet and plan with schools which often results in a benefit to both parties. That's all it would take to shift the burden of new schools to those causing the demand rather than coming back to higher taxes.
Most school construction funds comes from the state. Dealing with the state takes persistence, creativity and knowledge. State regulations make school projects incredibly expensive. They are engineered to be the safest of all structures and accessible to everyone with any handicap. As public works projects, the law requires higher wages paid to construction workers than they would get in any other job. And the Office of Public School Construction has the strangest of rules in awarding grants so that what you call something on a plan can change its funding, and what infrastructure is included in the land purchase is the difference between whether you can fund the construction or not. School districts cannot change the laws, but we can and must lobby for some common sense.
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