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$250M school bond possible for election next March

Editor’s note: This is the first of ongoing stories regarding challenges facing the Manteca Unified School District when it comes to facilities.

Schools need to be secure.

It is a lesson learned from a wide variety of concerns ranging from active shooters to other incidents that pose a threat to students and staff.

Security — just like maintaining swimming pools that has cost the district $200,000 over the past several years as well as heating/air condition repairs that cost $200,000 last year alone  — isn’t cheap. Digital locks allowing classroom doors to be secured remotely as quickly as possible cost $1,105 per installation as opposed to $80 for the locks they are replacing. And that doesn’t include the requirement of more secure doors that require new door frames as well as the need to run electricity to the doors to make the locks work.

That snippet is part of the ongoing challenges Manteca Unified has in addressing ongoing wear and tear roughly 24,000 students are causing to classrooms and other facilities that have a replacement value approaching $2 billion. 

An exhaustive 18-month  examination of the 33 Manteca Unified school campuses identified $625 million in basic facility needs ranging from safety issues to space for endeavors ranging from career and technical education for the existing student capacity.

The updated districtwide  facility assessment along with funding challenges and a nuts and bolts primer on how the district works to maintain schools with a combined replacement value approaching $2 billion was shared with the Manteca Unified board at a workshop on Wednesday.

The board is expected to use the information when they deliberate in the near future on whether to place a $250 million bond issue on the March 2020 ballot.

11 district schools

are 50 years & older

The district has $8.2 million dedicated to maintenance issues. Of that, 85 percent goes to pay for employees that perform the work leaving $1.1 million to pay for materials needed to handle the 9,500 work orders that schools will generate by year’s end for low-level repairs and $640,000 annually for more major issues such as heating and air system repairs.

Maintenance is dealing with 11 schools that are 50 years older and more, three that are older than 30 years, and 19 that are older than 20 years.

Just like with a house, repair issues you can’t afford to get around to become costlier and aging items such as 50-year-old wiring eventually needs replacement. The big difference is your bathrooms may have two or so kids using them during the course of a day while the schools have 24,000 kids using their bathrooms.

Superintendent Clark Burke noted there are also considerations such as aging mechanical equipment such a heating/air conditioning units that are not only becoming more frequent in the need to repair but also are incurring repairs that cost more. At the same time because it is aging, they are not running as efficient as a newer replacement and end up consuming more expensive energy than modern versions.

“I’m amazed we can do so much with so little,” noted trustee Karen Pearsall.

When it comes to tackling the $625 million in safety needs and instructional space for existing students the district has $24.6 million in developer fees collected on a per square footage basis of all new construction and  $29.9 million in Community Facilities Districts on hand. The CFD funds are restricted to schools within the geographic areas they are collected. Together the two sources of facility funding represent $54.5 million, leaving a $570 million shortfall.

$199 million needed

for safety work alone

Of the $625 million needed in today’s dollars, $199 million is needed for safety work .

Almost all of that is rollover needs based on the Masters Facilities Plan used as the basis for the successful $159 million Measure M bond that voters approved in 2014. That plan identified $298.1 million in pressing health and safety issues on district campuses. The bond measure was wedded with other funds to provide $170.1 million for the work needed. 

Back in 2014, the bond went forward while realizing $130.1 million in needed health and safety work would not be tackled. Since then  construction inflation has been averaging close to 8 percent a year. Not only has that swelled the cost to perform the unfunded work to $158.3 million but it also has eaten into work that is being done meaning less work than anticipated will be accomplished when Measure M funds are spent hence the $199 million still needed for safety work.

The first round of Measure M projects costing $56 million involved Lincoln, Lathrop Elementary, Sequoia, Shasta, and Golden West elementary schools. The current phase under way is addressing Nile Garden and Neil Hafley elementary schools as well as the Manteca, East Union, and Sierra high school campuses. Design of the third phase and what schools will addressed using what Measure M money remains will start next year.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email