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LWV League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
Smart Voter
Fresno County, CA November 4, 2008 Election
Measure V
School Improvement
Sierra Unified School District

Needs 55% to pass

Fail: 2701 / 48.64% Yes votes ...... 2852 / 51.36% No votes

See Also: Index of all Measures

Information shown below: Impartial Analysis | Arguments | Tax Rate Statement | Full Text

To improve neighborhood elementary and middle schools, upgrade classroom computer technology and school pick-up/drop-off zones, bring playgrounds into compliance with safety requirements, upgrade plumbing, wiring, heating and ventilation system, improve energy efficiency, increase classroom funding by paying down debt, shall Sierra Unified School District issue $12,000,000 of bonds at legal rates to renovate, acquire, construct, repair, equip schools, sites, facilities, with independent financial audits, citizens' oversight, and no money for administrators' salaries?

Impartial Analysis from the County Counsel
Voter approval of this measure will authorize the governing board of the Sierra Unified School District to issue and sell bonds in the maximum amount of Twelve Million Dollars ($12,000,000.00), bearing interest at legal rates. The bond proceeds will be used to renovate, acquire, construct, repair, and equip schools, sites, and facilities, to improve neighborhood elementary and middle schools, to upgrade classroom technology and school pick-up and drop-off zones, to bring playgrounds into compliance with safety requirements, to upgrade plumbing, wiring, heating and ventilation systems, to improve energy efficiency, and to increase classroom funding by paying down debt, with independent financial audits, and citizen's oversight, will not be used for administrator's salaries.

s/ Janelle E. Kelley
Interim County Counsel

 
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Arguments For Measure V Arguments Against Measure V
When the initial decision was made in 1990 to build Foothill Middle School, the enrollment projections showed steady and increasing enrollment throughout the payment period of the Certificates of Participation (COP) that were sold to finance the building of the school. However, the enrollment at Sierra Unified has been declining since 1996-97, and the payments on the COP have consumed a larger portion of the unrestricted General fund budget each year. With the large budget cuts proposed by the State of California for 2008-09, the percentage of total budget dedicated to pay for the middle school goes up tremendously.

The Certificates of Participation currently require annual payments through 2017. The current balance on the Certificates of Participation as of June 30, 2008 is $8,265,000, with annual debt-service payments of approximately $1,200,000. Using the bond funds to pay off these outstanding lease obligations will save $960,000 annually in the General fund which can be used for program enhancements at all schools. The rest of the proposed bond monies would go towards upgrading of our ageing schools. The proposed improvements include upgrading computer technology, creating safer drop off zones for students, bring playgrounds into compliance with safety requirements, upgrade plumbing, wiring, heating and ventilation systems as well as energy efficient systems.

$29.33 per $100,000 of assessed value per year is a small but wise investment in the future of our children.

Measure V for victory will make a difference everyday for our students. We urge you to vote YES on Measure V.

s/ Robert L. Franklin
Board President

s/ Jennifer Cooper
SUTA President

s/ Michael Gardner
Superintendent

s/ Jim Harris
CSEA President

s/ Bud Olson
Vice President

Rebuttal to Arguments For
Originally this 12 million-dollar bond was not intended to tax those in the Pine Ridge and Big Creek School Districts, as this was the reason for two separate bond measures. It's unfair to add this tax to them as they are taxed for their on K-8th schools and should only vote on the high school bond. When Big Creek passed a bond to upgrade their pool the taxpayers of Auberry, Tollhouse, Prather and Friant were not taxed. So why should they be taxed to pay down the Foothill Middle School loan? What a classic example of double taxation without representation!

The latest adopted resolutions on 8-7-08 by our SUSD Board of Trustees have changed and do not included building a new stadium or all-weather track This leaves us with improvements that can be covered by the budget. It does not justify going into debt for 25 years and paying an enormous amount of interest! We can not afford the tax increase or the additional interest as the district includes many retirees who are not on fixed incomes and over 50% of our students qualify for free and reduced lunches. The higher costs of living effects not only the schools but also the taxpayers who have no where to pass along their additional expenses.

Vote No on unfair bond.

s/ Chloe Foster

s/ Samuel A. Dow

s/ Andrea Walls

s/ Thomas Hancock II

s/ Bonnie Hancock

Sierra High Community Elementary and Middle School Improvement Measure: The school district is asking the taxpayer to take on another tax burden to pay down our payment on The Foothill Middle School by extending the payoff indebtedness period from 9 years to 25 years with an increase from over 8 million dollars to 12 million. Over this time period the interest paid on this new bonded indebtedness will cost more in interest than what we owe on the present loan. When in a financial hole the solution is never to dig deeper in debt. It is doubtful that the district can secure lower bond interest rate than what they refinanced about 3 years ago, as rates have increased since then. Over the long haul the school district will be better off if we continue to cut spending until our student enrollment comes back up and as our economy improves. The recent reductions approved by the Sierra Unified School District of $2,938,754 will more than pay for the $1,200,000 yearly payment on the Foothill Middle School and will allow for district wide improvements and repairs. Both Pine Ridge and Big Creek School Districts support their own K-8th grades. They should not be included in this new tax assessment for the Foothill, Auberry and Sierra Elementary School District Measure V.

The undersigned district residents request a NO vote on this $12,000,000 measure.

s/ Samuel A. Dow

s/ Chloe E. Foster

s/ Andrea E. Walls

s/ Thomas Hancock

s/ Bonnie Hancock

Rebuttal to Arguments Against
The following is a reply to each of the erroneous arguments against Measure V.

1. The Sierra Unified School District will combine the bond monies with developer fees to pay down the existing 8.5 million dollars indebtedness thus freeing up 1 million annually for supplies and program enhancements at all schools.

2. The remaining 3.5 million form the bond monies will be used for facility improvements.

3. The recent reductions by the district of $2938,754 were forced by declining enrollment, as well as reductions in state and federal revenues. These reductions have led to elimination or reductions of several programs and services which have had a positive impact on student achievement. The
$1,000,000 the district would recoup annually would allow for many of these needed programs to be reinstated.

4. The elimination of the debt service would benefit all schools including Sierra High School where Pine Ridge and Big Creek students attend.

5. The District will ask that Pine Ridge and Big Creek tax payers be exempt.

The forced reduction of almost $3,000,000 from the SUSD annual budget will greatly hinder the ability of the district to provide the programs and services our students need to be successful. The future of our next generation of students is dependent on this measure. We urge you to vote YES on Measure V.

s/ Robert Franklin
Board President

s/ Wes Qualls
Community Member

s/ Michael Gardner
Superintendent

s/ Jennifer Cooper
SUTA President

s/ Jim Harris
CSEA President

Tax Rate Statement
An election will be held in the Sierra Unified School District (the "District") on November 4, 2008, to authorize the sale of up to $12,000,000 in bonds of the District to finance elementary and middle school facilities as described in the measure. If such bonds are authorized and sold, principal and interest on the bonds will be payable from the proceeds of tax levies made upon the taxable property in the District. The following information is provided in compliance with Sections 9400-9404 of the Elections Code of the State of California. Such information is based upon the best estimates and projections presently available from official sources, upon experience within the District, and other demonstrable factors.

Based upon the foregoing and projections of the District's assessed valuation, and assuming the entire debt service will be paid through property taxation:

1. The best estimate of the tax rate which would be required to be levied to fund this bond issue during the first fiscal year after the sale of the first series of bonds, based on estimated assessed valuations available at the time of filing of this statement, is $0.02963 per $100 ($29.63 per $100,000) of assessed value for the fiscal year 2009-2010.

2. The best estimate of the tax rate which would be required to be levied to fund this bond issue during the first fiscal year after the sale of the last series of bonds, based on estimated assessed valuations at the time of filing of this statement, is $0.02963 per $100 ($29.63 per $100,000) assessed value for the fiscal year 2017-2018.

3. The best estimate of the highest tax rate which would be required to be levied to fund this bond issue, based on estimated assessed valuations available at the time of filing of this statement, is $0.02963 per $100 ($29.63 per $100,000) of assessed value. The tax rate is expected to remain the same in each year that the bonds are scheduled to be outstanding.

Voters should note the estimated tax rate is based on the ASSESSED VALUE of taxable property on the County's official tax rolls, not on the property's market value. In addition, taxpayers eligible for a property tax exemption, such as the homeowner's exemption, will be taxed at a lower effective tax rate than described above. Certain taxpayers may also be eligible to postpone payment of taxes. Property owners should consult their own property tax bills and tax advisors to determine their property's, assessed value and any applicable tax exemptions.

The attention of all voters is directed to the fact that the foregoing information is based upon projections and estimates only, which are not binding upon the District. The actual tax rates and the years in which they will apply may vary from those presently estimated, due to variations from these estimates in the timing of bond sales, the amount of bonds sold and market interest rates at the time of each sale, and actual assessed valuations over the term of repayment of the bonds. The date of sale and the amount of bonds sold at any given time will be determined by the District based on need for construction funds and other factors. The actual interest rates at which the bonds will be sold will depend on the bond market at the time of sale. Actual future assessed valuations will depend upon the amount and value of taxable property within the District as determined by the County Assessor in the annual assessment and the equalization process.

s/ Dr. Michael Gardner
Superintendent
Sierra Unified School District

Full Text of Measure V
PRIORITY SCHOOL PROJECTS LIST

The Board of Trustees of the Sierra Unified School District evaluated the District's urgent and critical facility needs, including safety issues, enrollment trends, class size, energy efficiency and computer technology, in developing the scope of projects to be funded. In developing the scope of projects, teachers, staff and community members have prioritized the key health and safety needs so that the most critical facility needs are addressed. The Board conducted a facilities evaluation and received public input and review in developing the scope of facility projects to be funded. This input concluded that if these needs were not addressed now, the problem would only get worse. In approving this Priority School Projects List, the Board of Trustees determines that the District must:

(i) Ensure that local students have the opportunities they need to
learn and excel by increasing student access to computers and up-to-date technology.

(ii) Retain all bond money locally in our community, ensuring local control and sufficient funds to address the education needs in our community, particularly as the Governor cuts state funding for education.

(iii) Provide our students with the same quality classrooms and resources provided by other nearby school districts.

(iv) Pay-off existing debt to allow more money to be spent in the classroom to upgrade essential learning materials, such as purchasing new textbooks and computers, which will improve the quality of education children in our community receive.

The Bond Priority School Project List is on file at the Sierra Unified School District Office and includes the following projects:

PRIORITY SCHOOL PROJECTS

Auberry Elementary School (Constructed in the 1930's)

  • Upgrade plumbing, ventilation and electrical systems and bring playground equipment into compliance with current safety requirements.

  • Replace barb-wire cattle fence with new fencing and outdoor lighting to improve safety conditions for students.

  • Redesign student drop-off and pick-up area to improve student safety and aid neighborhood traffic flow.

  • Upgrade computer technology, including new "smart" classrooms to utilize up-to-date learning technology and software.

Sierra Elementary School (Constructed in the 1940's)

  • Upgrade indoor cafeteria eating areas.

  • Replace old boilers with energy efficient heating, cooling and ventilation system.
  • Upgrade computer technology, including new "smart" classrooms to utilize up-to-date learning technology and software.

  • Construct upper playground restroom facilities.

Foothill Middle School

  • Upgrade computer technology, including new "smart" classrooms

  • Improve energy efficiency of potable water pressure system and

District-Wide Projects

  • Pay-off an existing lease debt to allow more money to be spent in the classrooms to utilize up-to-date learning technology and software.

  • Reduce utility costs by upgrading energy management systems.

Listed building, repair and rehabilitation projects and upgrades will be completed as needed. Each project is assumed to include its share of furniture, equipment, architectural, engineering, and similar planning costs, program management, staff training expenses and a customary contingency for unforeseen design and construction costs. In addition to the listed repair and construction projects stated above, the Priority School Projects List also includes the payment of the costs of preparation of all facility planning, facility assessment reviews, environmental studies and construction documentation, and temporary housing of dislocated District activities caused by bond projects. The allocation of bond proceeds will be affected by the District's receipt of State matching funds and the final costs of each project. Certain projects may be undertaken as joint use projects in cooperation with other local public agencies. The budget for each project is an estimate and may be affected by factors beyond the District's control. The final cost of each project will be determined as plans are finalized, construction bids are awarded and projects are completed. Based on the final costs of each project, certain of the projects described above may be delayed or may not be completed. Demolition of existing facilities and reconstruction of facilities scheduled for repair and upgrade may occur, if the Board determines that such an approach would be more cost-effective in creating more enhanced and operationally efficient campuses. Necessary site preparation/restoration may occur in connection with new construction, renovation or remodeling, or installation or removal of relocatable classrooms, including ingress and egress, removing, replacing, or installing irrigation, utility lines, trees and landscaping, redirecting fire access, and acquiring any necessary easements, licenses, or rights of way to the property. Bond proceeds shall only be expended for the specific purposes identified herein. The District shall create an account into which proceeds of the bonds shall be deposited and comply with the reporting requirements. requirements of Government Code 53410.

FISCAL ACCOUNTABILITY. IN ACCORDANCE WITH EDUCATION CODE SECTION 15272, THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES WILL APPOINT A CITIZENS' OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE AND CONDUCT ANNUAL INDEPENDENT AUDITS TO ASSURE THAT FUNDS ARE SPENT ONLY ON DISTRICT PROJECTS AND FOR NO OTHER PURPOSE. THE EXPENDITURE OF BOND MONEY ON THESE PROJECTS IS SUBJECT TO STRINGENT FINANCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY REQUIREMENTS. BY LAW, PERFORMANCE AND FINANCIAL AUDITS WILL BE PERFORMED ANNUALLY, AND ALL BOND EXPENDITURES WILL BE MONITORED BY AN INDEPENDENT CITIZENS' OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE TO ENSURE THAT FUNDS ARE SPENT AS PROMISED AND SPECIFIED. THE CITIZENS' OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE MUST INCLUDE, AMONG OTHERS, REPRESENTATION OF A BONA FIDE TAXPAYERS ASSOCIATION, A BUSINESS ORGANIZATION AND A SENIOR CITIZENS ORGANIZATION. NO DISTRICT EMPLOYEES OR VENDORS ARE ALLOWED TO SERVE ON THE CITIZENS' OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE.

NO ADMINISTRATOR SALARIES. PROCEEDS FROM THE SALE OF THE BONDS AUTHORIZED BY THIS PROPOSITION SHALL BE USED ONLY FOR THE ACQUISITION, CONSTRUCTION, RECONSTRUCTION, REHABILITATION, OR REPLACEMENT OF SCHOOL FACILITIES, INCLUDING THE FURNISHING AND EQUIPPING OF SCHOOL FACILITIES, AND NOT FOR ANY OTHER PURPOSE, INCLUDING TEACHER AND SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR SALARIES AND OTHER OPERATING EXPENSES.


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Created: January 24, 2009 10:32 PST
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