General obligation bond would fund school improvements, multipurpose room
For the first time in its existence the West Side Union School District is asking voters to approve a $7.5 million general obligation bond (G.O.) for much needed facility updates and repairs at West Side School.
The bond, which is being called Measure F on the ballot, would help fund several projects including updates to the aging heating, venting and air-conditioning system, improvements to the student drop-off and pick up area and the construction of a multi-purpose room with a cafeteria.
“West Side has a long standing history in Healdsburg and looking at what our facilities are currently, they are not meeting the learning and safety needs of all of our kiddos. We want to make sure that we are able to provide that,” said Kris Menlove, West Side Union School District Superintendent and West Side School principal.
“The additional pieces are things again, going towards safety like making sure that our air conditioners and heaters are working because as we know in the state of California even with its funding, they are not funding the maintenance piece of the school, so the money we are receiving is going towards instruction and the funding is not going towards the maintenance of our buildings,” Menlove continued.
The bond would also help fund the modernization and construction of classrooms, restrooms and school facilities and improvements to the playgrounds and playfields.
While the school does have a library, it is currently being used as a classroom and the Phoenix Hall assembly/classroom area is serving as a multipurpose room for after care, band, music, art and as a space to have lunch on a rainy day.
The addition of a multipurpose room and a cafeteria would free up space in Phoenix Hall and in the library.
“We’d like to be able to have our library return and even though we are working collaboratively with the Sonoma County Library, the Healdsburg Library in particular, we’d love to be able to have that return,” Menlove said. “By adding a building we’d be able to not have a conflict of services. We want to make sure students are receiving the quality education that I think everybody wants us to have for kids.”
Menlove said the district would benefit from the bond because it would help ensure that students are getting various enrichment activities in a safe and up-to-date environment.
“We are underfunded in education, (but) our Felta Education Foundation is phenomenal, they raise about $85,000 a year so we can provide the type of enrichment I think all parents in Sonoma County want for their kids — music, art, garden, Spanish, band, ect. So our district would benefit from the bond because we would be able to make sure that we have designated spaces for those activities,” she said.
What is a G.O. bond and what would it cost?
A G.O. bond is for funding classroom renovation projects as well as improvements to school facilities. By law, all funds have to be spent locally.
Similar to a home loan, G.O. bonds are typically repaid over 30 years and the loan repayment comes from a tax on taxable property — residential, commercial, agriculture and industrial — located in the school district’s boundaries, according to a flyer about Measure F from West Side School.
If the bond were to pass, then a citizens’ oversight committee would be established to help determine how the funds would be spent and which projects would get first priority.
“They could say let’s begin with the safety piece, or it could take a look at the improvement of playgrounds. Really, that citizens’ oversight committee helps us gage what our priorities are for when we go to make those steps,” Menlove said.
The committee would be comprised of staff members, teachers, neighbors and parents.
“It really is about making sure we have community involvement and one of the great things about West Side is that we have wonderful community support,” she said.
When asked what the measure would mean for property owners in the area Menlove said, “The tax rate per property owner is estimated to be $30 per $100,000 of assessed evaluation, so if my house if $500,000, it means I am going to then have that $150.”
She said it is always based upon what the assessed value of your home is on your property and not about the market value.
Residents can check their property tax statement to view their current assessed valuation.
Measuring bond support
In terms of support for the measure, there is an idea that the strong community support, close-knit area and an understandingof the importance of providing opportunities for kids, will help the measure pass.
“What’s been shared with us is, yes, the community supports it,” Menlove said.
Currently there is no official submitted argument against Measure F according to the text of the measure in the Sonoma County voter guide.
The district also partnered with an advisor group who contacted community members to gage what community support was like for the bond
“We partnered with advisors who were able to do the behind the scenes of really contacting our community members and they were able to present to the board that there is support for the bond and I think that is just indicative of Sonoma County. Sonoma County wants children to have quality education and I think they understand that California underfunds education and we have such a strong support as we know just from parents fundraising for us,” Menlove said.
If the measure does not pass, then funds that would otherwise go towards classroom instruction, would go towards safety repairs and improvements. Projects would also be postponed.
“We would look at potentially why it didn’t pass, and really do some deep digging into some potential reasons, but I am really confident that the families and community members in our area really do understand the history and the commitment that West Side School has provided to children, so I am very optimistic that our community members will realize the value of supporting the bond,” Menlove said.