Visalia Unified School District’s motto is “We educate kids. We create futures.” Bond Measure A dollars are set to go to work for just that purpose.
According to Visalia Unified School District (VUSD) Director of Facilities Gerry Lemus at the Measure A Bond Oversight Committee Meeting October 16, elementary schools, middle schools and high schools are to benefit from a property tax approved with 60% of the vote in November 2018.
Assistant Superintendent Robert Groeber told The Valley Voice that if approved in March 2020 at the state level, this will generate a maximum of $36 per $100,000 in property value. “We want our $75 million matched by the state because we do not want this burden on our taxpayers,” said Groeber. The state of California honors such bonds by matching funds, in this case potentially adding up to $225 million for Valley students.
This will include upgrades to aging campuses and a new high school to temper overcrowding. Groeber added that if the bond is not approved in March, the focus of our funds will be updating facilities structurally, enhancing use of technology and ensuring our students are safe.
With the addition of Ridgeview Middle School, Visalia will have five middle schools and four high schools. Many students who went to elementary school and middle school together are being split up and the new high school will reestablish a balance. Elementary and middle schools will correspond and matriculate to high schools in their respective areas once the new high school is built.
The Bond Oversight Committee (BOC) was established to ensure that all bond funds are used efficiently to accomplish resolution 17-18-67 while maintaining transparency of the Board of Trustees to the general public.
According the VUSD website, members include: Caren Anderson, Erik Anderson, Kim Colburn, Randall K. Evans, Mark Fulmer, Bob Hamlin, Dr. Juan Lopez, Nick Mascia, Sanah Peariso, Basil J. Perch, Tony Velasquez, Gerardo Verduzco, Darice Vieira and Lupe Ponce Wong.
Many of the members of the committee have children attending VUSD schools and are in leadership roles or active on the campuses.
The general goals are as follows, according the Lemus and Groeber: replace leaking roofs, provide modern science labs and technology, prevent overcrowding, increase safety/security at all schools, provide equal access for students and improve access for children with disabilities.
According to said VUSD officials, 80% of our school buildings are over 20 years old and 60% are over 50 years old.
According to Groeber, 18 schools are ready for modernization, pending the bond passing in March, 2020. The following schools will be upgraded if the bond passes on the state level: Conyer Elementary School, Crestwood Elementary School, Divisadero Middle School, Elbow Creek Elementary School, Global Learning Charter School, Golden Oak Elementary School, Green Acres Middle School, Highland Elementary School, Houston Elementary School, Hurley Elementary School, La Joya Middle School, Linwood Elementary School, Mountain View Elementary School, Mt. Whitney High School, Pinkham Elementary School, Valley Oak Middle School and Willow Glen Elementary School.
Three firms were selected to take an initial questionnaire regarding the new high school to be built on the corner of Roben and Sedona in Visalia: Darden Architects, SIM-PBK and Mangini Associates, Inc. Although all were viable options, Mangini Associates, Inc. was chosen because of its community involvement, local project success, the experience and availability of its team and a locked 5% construction cost. The other architects presented a 6-7% cost on a sliding scale.
The new high school will have a gymnasium, aquatics center, stadium and theater, constructed in concert to save money in the long term.
Measure A will continue the work accomplished by Measure E, which brought us Ridgeview Middle School in addition to valuable remodels.
Measure E is a general obligation bond for Visalia Unified School District that was approved by voters in November 2012.
Property owners in Visalia Unified School District will see the Measure E tax end three years early – and enjoy a 23% lower-than-expected rate. The second and final series of bonds was recently sold in a competitive process.
Measure E was estimated to be $30 per $100,000 valuation. Instead, the lower interest rate will result in a rate of $22.63 per $100,000 valuation.
When asked about saving taxpayer money and helping our students by the BOC, Director Lemus responded, “That’s why I wake up in the morning.”
Measure A and E funds cannot be used to fund salaries or benefits. All funds will be used for facilities and will be monitored by the Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee. For more information call Robert Groeber, Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services, at 559-730-7529 or email at [email protected].