$30 million in new school bonds sought

San Benito high school district voters OK bonds four years ago

The March 3 ballots have been mailed to San Benito County voters, most of whom live in the San Benito High School District.

That means that nearly 25,000 voters will be given the option from now until polls close on March 3 of deciding the fate of a $30 million bond measure—Measure L— to fund continued construction and improvements at the sprawling campus, home to 2,915 high school students.

Four years ago, San Benito voters approved a $60 million bond measure for the high school by a wide margin, 64 percent to 36 percent. That vote also was in a presidential election year, but in the November general election, when 80 percent of the county’s registered voters cast ballots.

This year’s high school bond measure comes in a first-ever March primary election, where despite a crowded Democratic primary, turnout expectations are lower.

To be approved, local school bond measures need one vote more than 55 percent of the votes cast.

The 2016 $60 million measure provided funds to “improve the quality of local high school education” by “upgrading science labs and classrooms, continue improving school access for students with disabilities; adding classrooms and school facilities to reduce overcrowding; upgrading aging student facilities; and improving school and earthquake safety.” Not all of the projects have been completed.

The 2020 $30 million measure would fund:

  • New gate systems and security cameras, as well as improved lighting and fencing around the Hollister campus
  • A new multi-purpose building with a student union and cafeteria
  • Additional solar photovoltaic panels to reduce energy costs across the campus

As was the case four years ago, the district will rely on a Citizens’ Oversight Committee and independent annual financial audits to ensure the money is spent as required. Also, as in the 2016 measure, no money could be used for administrators’ salaries or pensions.

The district says it needs the additional money because it cannot rely on the state to fund these improvements and upgrades at the high school. 

It is estimated that the new bond measure would cost approximately $13 per $100,000 in assessed value per year for the 30-year life of the bonds, or approximately $53.30 per year for a single family home in the district having an average assessed value of approximately $410,000. 

The district has “very few options when it comes to funding the necessary improvements that our school needs,” according to its public statements. “The potential school facility improvement measure would provide local funding for key projects that will improve the learning environment for students and create a safe space for students and the community.”

The previous bond measures approved by district voters built:

  • The Career Technical Education Building
  • The Visual and Performing Arts and Academic Facility
  • The new Science and Robotics building that opened last month

The previous measures also modernized classrooms across the campus and upgraded the internal infrastructure network to allow for technology in every classroom.

The previous measures also provided money to close Nash Road, complete disabilities access improvements, build new parking lots, install a school-wide public address system and campus signage and complete new student pathways.

The previous measures also built: 

  • New multi-use synthetic turf field
  • New tennis courts
  • New athletic stadium with synthetic turf
  • All-weather track, and locker rooms
  • New softball field with batting cages and bullpen
  • New Baler Aquatics Complex, with locker rooms and arena seating
  • New strength and conditioning facility with adjoining wrestling room

By law, the district cannot offer a senior exemption for a bond measure. However, the cost of the potential measure would be based on the assessed value of a person’s property, which is different from market value. The assessed value is based on the original purchase price of a home, which is often much lower for those that have lived in their homes for a long time.

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