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Nearly 4 times more work than money
MHS pool

Manteca Unified has a math problem.

The school district has $143 million left in bonding capacity. Construction inflation is expected to erode the buying power of the bonding capacity by 16 percent by the time 2020 rolls around.

It has a pressing capital needs list for work at aging schools originally pegged at $600 million that is now pushing $900 million due to construction inflation.

After addressing pressing issues at five elementary schools, there is $103 million left in Measure G bonds that voters approved four years ago. That money will not fund all of the projects originally intended due to inflation stoked by a Bay Area-Northern San Joaquin Valley building boom.

Manteca High — the linchpin in the school board’s plan to avoid building a new high school that would cost $150 million in today’s dollars to handle growth in the next 10 to 20 years — will likely swallow at least $15 million in Measure G bond money for health and safety addressing everything from asbestos, gas line issues, electrical wiring, and a multitude of issues underground and behind walls.

That leaves $25 million in non-Measure G bond receipts — $21 million in growth fees and $4 million in one-time redevelopment agency funds — to go toward positioning the 98-year-old campus to go from a design capacity of 1,703 students to 2,200 students to serve new growth.

It will require about $10 million to build a new gym large enough to accommodate an entire student body of 2,200.  The current gym’s limited size means school assemblies for the current enrollment of 1,600 students have to be conducted in multiple waves.

Reconfiguring the Manteca High campus to accommodate growth and address serious security and safety deficiencies solved in part by reorientation the school to Moffat Boulevard will require the removal of the small gym and the aging swimming pool. A replacement pool is expected to cost $6 million.

While you might be tempted to argue Manteca Unified would be better off walking away from the campus and starting over, keep in mind that the replacement cost of the campus is $150 million.

“What we have is basically a math problem,” noted District Superintendent Clark Burke.

The math problem essentially is: WN (work needed) minus MA (money available) = MFS (massive funding shortfall).

Based on $900 million in identified needs and $104 million in remaining Measure G bond proceeds and $143 million in leftover bonding capacity, Manteca Unified has no way of paying for $753 million worth of work.


District combines Measure G

projects with growth related

work to save money

It’s a problem the district recognized from the outset in shaping the Measure G spending program. It is why the second phase of campuses being tackled has several campuses such as Manteca High and Nile Garden School tapping combined growth funds with Measure G funds to maximize the impact of expenditures and to benefit financially from efficiencies of wedding growth as well as health, safety, and modernization projects together.

Making funding more challenging is the state that is moving at a snail’s pace to award chunks of $3.3 billion set aside to modernize school structures of a certain age that was part of the $10.4 billion statewide Proposition 1D school bond approved by voters in 2014.

Manteca Unified — just like other districts such as Ripon Unified — are counting on the state bond matching funds to leverage additional work. But as of this month, the state — which has approved the first five Measure G projects to be placed on the list for consideration for funding — has not moved closer to awarding a dime of the $3.3 billion although they have announced they are no longer considering projects to add to the list.

It was against that backdrop the school board directed staff to explore the feasibility of going for a bond measure on the Nov. 6 ballot when such a proposal would require a 55 percent level of support. A bond election next year — a non-general election year — would require a two thirds approval. The next time a 55 percent approval would be needed to pass a bond is in 2020. By then based on current construction inflation, the buying power of that $143 million would be diluted 16 percent in today’s dollars to $122 million.

Burke notes school districts can ask the state for approval to exceed their bonding capacity if needed.

But that isn’t on the table. What is are a pending board decision in the coming weeks whether to proceed with a bond on the Nov. 6 ballot and exactly what it would go toward and looking for ways to maximize what funds the district does have.

One example is what the Facilities & Operations team headed by Aaron Bowers came up with as a more efficient way to increase Lincoln School to 1,000 students to handle elementary enrollment growth.

After analyzing various non-classroom programs and the space they occupy, it was determined instead of spending $5 million plus on a new wing for up to eight classrooms the district could build a resource center instead and repurpose existing space for classrooms. That would save $3.7 million.

“Whatever model we come up with for a resource center we will duplicate it elsewhere to save money on the design,” Bowers said.


East Union High work

in next phase of

Measure G bond work

The next phase of Measure G work includes spending $13 million on the 52-year-old East Union High campus for health, safety, and modernization. That is in addition to a $1.1 million Career and Technical Education grant related work for new facilities.

East Union High and Sierra High have a big stake in what takes place at Manteca High and to a lesser degree so do Lathrop and Weston Ranch high schools.

If Manteca High isn’t positioned to be able to have the support facilities to handle 2,200 students the board would be forced to rethink its strategy of taking up the three schools to 2,200 students from their current design capacities. That could mean, not by choice, more students at those campuses

It also could mean the impact of growth from south of the 120 Bypass could be shifted to East Union and Sierra from Manteca High. In a worst case scenario Weston Ranch and Lathrop High could be drawn into the solution through busing although there are significant near term growth pressures in Lathrop west of Interstate 5 and west of the San Joaquin River.

Sierra and East Union, just like Manteca, are targeted to have their capacities increased to 2,200 students. Based on today’s enrollments at the three campuses such a strategy would effectively add the equivalent of a fourth high school within the city limits of Manteca.

At the same time the board has adopted a policy to take elementary schools up to 1,000 students to handle growth to avoid the need to build elementary schools from the ground up.

Elementary schools — that have a price tag of $30 million — are expected to be built in the near term with the first being the initial phase of Ethel Allen School in Lathrop.

Both the elementary and high school strategies are based on avoiding significant costs associated with developing raw land with infrastructure such as sewer and water as well as parking lots and support facilities including gyms or multipurpose rooms, cafeterias, libraries, offices, and playing fields.

It is significantly more cost efficient to add one or two classroom wings.

That strategy is based on another math problem. Although there are three sources to fund new schools — Mello Roos taxes, new home school impact fees, and state (and/or local) bond money when it is available — for building new schools, it often isn’t enough to cover the cost.

Even with major work needed at Manteca High in terms of $16 million for a new gym and a new swimming pool, by expanding existing campuses the equivalent of a fourth high school campus within Manteca’s city limits could be built for a fraction of the $150 million price tag of a new high school.

The same is true of expanding existing elementary campuses.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email