VICTORVILLE — The Victor Valley Union High School District quietly halted its efforts recently to take an $87.2 million Proposition 39 bond issue to local voters this November, while two other districts in the area are pushing forward with bond elections.
The VVUHSD Board of Trustees tabled the item at a special meeting at the end of July, and they chose not to consider it again before the Aug. 8 filing deadline. Should the measure have been approved it would have been the third to go to the ballot in the Victor Valley this fall to support district Facilities Master Plans. The Hesperia Unified and Snowline Joint Unified districts have chosen to bring bond elections to voters.
VVUHSD Superintendent Ron Williams said it was a board decision that was made before he took the reins as the district’s top administrator on Aug. 1.
“I believe the board has made a decision and my task is to support that decision at this time,” Williams said. “As we go further down the road in regards to finances, we can better assess our next steps at that time.”
Builders across the state have been pushing for a statewide school construction bond in order to prevent fee increases to new homebuyers, according to several media reports. Lawmakers drafted Assembly Bill 2235, the Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2014, on Feb. 21. It has received bipartisan support in addition to support from the California Teachers Association.
The bill as it stands would issue $4.3 billion of state general obligation bonds. However, Gov. Jerry Brown has said he is opposed to the state taking on more debt for school construction.
AB 2235 awaits a third reading by the Senate after it passed the Senate Appropriations Committee on Aug. 14 and was again amended on Aug. 18.
“As this process moves down the pipeline further we’ll have a much clearer picture,” VVUHSD’s Williams said. “Obviously, a statewide facilities bond would be excellent.”
Hesperia and Snowline officials are hoping for the passage of a statewide bond would augment the funds they are seeking at the local level. HUSD is pursuing a $207 million general obligation bond issue this November, while Snowline is asking voters to approve a $60 million bond issue.
The Hesperia measure would levy an annual $58.58 property tax per $100,000 of assessed value, or $70.30 for the median-valued home.
In Snowline, a Phelan-based district that serves much of the western Victor Valley, property owners would pay $60 per $100,000 of assessed value per year, should the bond issue get approved. Both measures would require a 55 percent voter approval.
Under the state School Facility Program, districts could potentially qualify for dollar-for-dollar matching funds, which each district wrote in their ballot resolutions.
“If (the statewide bond measure) were to pass then it would enable us to bolster what we’d be able to generate locally,” said Luke Ontiveros, superintendent of Snowline Joint Unified School District. “It’s generally tied to having some type of local resources.”
Under California’s public school construction modernization program, 40 percent of the costs for modernization projects are paid for by schools and 60 percent is paid for the by the state. New construction is split 50-50. Districts under financial hardship and rapid growth also could qualify to have full construction costs covered by the state, however, Ontiveros said under the new bill the hardship program could be eliminated.
“It’s still subject to modification,” Ontiveros said of the legislation. “The information I received is that hardship eligibility is likely to go away with any subsequent bond issue, if it happens to get through the Legislature.”
Ontiveros said Snowline has never qualified for the Financial Hardship Program. But at least one local school district — Adelanto Elementary School District — recently built new schools through the program, according to the Adelanto district’s website.
Brooke Self may be reached at 760-951-6232 or BSelf@VVDailyPress.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at @BrookeSelf or @DPEduNews.