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Hike in sales tax, school bond on Tuesday ballot
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Voters in Ripon and Lathrop on Tuesday are being asked to approve higher taxes to pay for everything from new school classrooms to enhanced fire and police protection.

City of Lathrop voters will decide the fate of Measure C. It’s a one cent sales tax projected to raise $2 million annually. One of the benefactors is the Lathrop Manteca Fire District. The City Council has agreed to provide part of the additional sales tax revenue in order to beef up firefighter manpower. Additional police officers are also a high priority for the city.

If passed, it would give Lathrop the highest sales tax in the region at 8.75 percent. Manteca and Tracy would be the second highest at 8.25 percent followed by Stockton at 8 percent, Ripon as well as Lodi and Escalon at 7.75 percent and Modesto at 7.375 percent. The sales tax requires a simple majority to pass.

Ripon Unified voters are being asked to OK a $25.2 million bond dubbed Measure G on the Tuesday ballot.

The money would replace portable classrooms that have been used long past their life expectancy at both the Colony Oak and Weston elementary school campuses. It also would address other needs such as providing adequate space for libraries and computer labs. The measure also would allow the district to finish paying for the Clinton South parcel that houses the Ripon High school farm and is the site for a future high school.

The plan is to borrow funds at a lower interest rate to pay off remaining debt on the land purchase to save taxpayers $6 million. The money saved, in turn, can be spent on retaining qualified teachers and protecting the quality of classroom instruction

The bonds would cost the owners of a $250,000 home $20.63 a year or $8.25 per $100,000 of assessed valuation.

Classroom concerns

A partial list of concerns of the classrooms designed to last 20 years but have been in used much longer include:

• Portable classrooms that have settled over time have pushed plywood floors upward splitting carpet at the seams creating tripping hazards.

• Door jams over the years have worked their way apart from the walls prompting maintenance crews to “plug” the open gaps.

• There are inadequate electrical outlets since the portables were put in place long before technology changed the classroom. In some instances, teachers have gotten creative taping state-approved extension cords to the ceiling to bring power to a needed location for a classroom computer.

• When it rains, the bucket brigade is pressed into commission to catch water that drips down on tables and elsewhere on the floor creating a safety hazard at the Colony Oak multi-purpose room.

• Mold issues that were addressed a decade ago at Colony Oak are always a concern in the back of administrators’ minds given the construction of the schools.

• The Colony Oak parking lot design is a nightmare given that 100 percent of the students either ride the bus or are driven to school.

• The outside walls show extensive signs of wear having taken a beating from the elements through wet winters and baking summers.

• The pressed board walls are deteriorating in almost every classroom creating visible holes and tears. Due to the design of the portables, when shelves and coat racks start to work their way off the walls there is no way that can be re-attached due to the condition of the pressed board.

• Portable bathrooms have uneven floors, missing privacy boards between urinals that can’t be replaced due to the condition of walls, and issues with draining. One of the boys’ bathrooms, when urinal overflows, is a challenge to clean since the floor has settled in such a manner that the drain is at the high point.

• The library - essentially a converted classroom - is dubbed “the bookmobile” at Colony Oak due to the right quarters that make it impossible for more than one class to use it at a time.

• Unlike permanent schools such as Park View there is no computer lab at either Weston or Colony Oak.

• Ceiling tiles with water stains are the norm.

• Trees growing behind narrow boarded off separations attached portable classrooms at Weston. The trees - many that tower above the roof line, are uplifting classroom floors and causing other problems.

• Students backing up in their chairs get caught on carpet that is separating due to floor buckling and taking spills.

• Drawers and cupboards are difficult at best to open due to classroom floors settling.

• Water damage on the ceiling panels in virtually every classroom.

• Painting many parts of the exterior of classrooms on an annual  basis to avoid further deterioration of the wood as well as to try and keep the buildings looking as presentable as possible.

• Dark classrooms caused not just by older lighting but because many portables at Weston back up to each other blocking the few windows there are.

• When parts of the portables fall apart due to age, replacement parts often have to be fashioned especially for the classrooms. An example is vents along the outside walls. The wood that once held them in place has weakened so much that custodians have to deliberately oversize replacement screens just so they can find a place in the wood that will still hold screws.