School district discusses a possible November ballot
■ Robin Underwood / Reporter
Hemet Unified School District may be looking into putting a school bond measure on the upcoming November ballot. The proposal would be for $150 million to upgrade school properties.
On Tuesday July 17, HUSD held a study session open to the public to discuss the possible bond measure. The district will be making a final decision to move forward with the bond at its next board meeting at 6:30 p.m. July 31.
Alexandria Sponheim, a public information officer for HUSD, gave the Chronicle a further explanation on what this bond measure could mean for the taxpayers of Hemet:
Every day approximately 21,000 students attend classes in Hemet Unified schools that are aging and outdated, she says. While well maintained, many of the schools were built in the 1950s. All are in constant use by students, staff and community. Repairs and upgrades are needed to properly prepare students for college, careers and life, she notes.
Hemet Unified School District has addressed needed safety and critical time-sensitive repairs. However, the current scope of repairs, upgrades, and new technology needed to ensure that all students receive the same high quality of education exceeds the district’s state-allocated facilities budget, according to Sponheim.
Says Sponheim: We have conducted stakeholder input sessions with over 1200 community members. Based on their feedback and analysis conducted by the district, facilities needs have been identified. She says that the below items are recurring themes brought forth by the community and staff.
• Improve student safety and security
• Repair and upgrade aging schools: complete basic health/safety repairs, upgrade technology, remove asbestos and lead paint, repair leaky roofs and deteriorated plumbing, and upgrade old, inefficient HVAC units.
• Provide facilities to prepare all students for college and career success.
• Improve student access to science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM).
• Provide facilities that ensure competitive 21st Century instruction at each school.
• Upgrade vocational and career education classrooms.
• Provide classrooms/facilities to accommodate student enrollment growth.
The HUSD Board is considering a package that will address these critical facilities needs and will be making a final decision on July 31.
The good news is, the bond proposal has a “no-tax-rate-increase” financing plan, according to Sponheim, which means that it’s a simple extension for homeowners – not an increase or additional tax over and above what taxpayers are paying now.
Sponheim explained that the proposed bond measure would be similar to a homeowner extending his or her mortgage. The proposed bond would extend, without increasing the rate of taxes, those taxes that are currently being paid on outstanding bonds. This would continue locally controlled funding for Hemet USD school facilities while keeping the tax rate flat, she said.
If voters approve the proposed measure, the average tax rate over the life of the bond would be $45.32 per $100,000 of assessed value (not market value), and the typical homeowner would pay about $81 per year.
Clifford Moss and FM3 Research are still involved. They led the study session July 17 and provided the new survey results to the Governing Board.
There was a survey done in August 2016 and based on the results from the Hemet residents, it was determined that HUSD would not proceed with a bond measure at that time. Surveys were done in January and June 2018.”The results show that we are in range of the 55%+1 threshold support needed for a local school bond,” the consultants said.
The district sent a mailer home to the residents within the Hemet Unified School District boundaries. The mailer let residents know about the facilities needs and possible solutions, including a potential bond measure.
At this point, next steps would be for the Governing Board to make a final decision whether they want the district to pursue a bond measure on July 31.
The consultants reported they have not had any residents speak about the potential bond measure at any school board meetings. They have hosted nearly 42 meetings throughout the community and have received feedback from residents in regards to the bond. We continue to hear that safety and security are a top priority for community members, they say.
There have been opportunities for people to speak about the bond measure at the board meetings, the consultants said, and there will be another opportunity at the July 31 board meeting.
The Board of Education (not city council) has the authority to call for the proposed local school bond election. That action (calling for an election) is scheduled for July 31. If the board chooses to take action on the proposed ballot package, it will be filed with the Riverside County Registrar of Voters no later than Aug. 10, the state filing deadline.