Manteca Unified voters are being asked Nov. 3 to give another look at a $260 million school bond.
The measure will be the same as the one voters rejected in March with one big difference — thanks to the district’s solid financial condition that has earned it high ratings from bond underwriters and the pandemic fallout creating a huge demand from those wanting to invest in bonds — the actual cost to property taxpayers will be at least 25 percent less than just four months ago.
The bond authorization request is for $60 per $100,000 but based on the last sale of Measure G bonds that happened after the pandemic started and the unusually high interest investors have in bonds being sold by government entities with “A” ratings and higher, the actual cost will be $35.51 per $100,000 of assessed value. That means if your home has an assessed value under Proposition 13 of $300,000, you would pay an additional $106.51 a year in taxes as opposed to $180 more annually.
That is not the end of potential savings. Construction costs in the past several months have dropped and flat-lined in many instances as opposed to the 8 percent annual escalation that has been happening in recent years.
The hit the economy has taken from the pandemic is expected to last several years. To take advantage of somewhat weaker construction costs District Superintendent Clark Burke said the district will make every effort to do more work sooner if the bond is approved.
State law prevents school districts from selling bonds where the proceeds aren’t spent within three years. It is why the $159 Measure G bond approved in 2014 was sold in three offerings. The last sale will fund work that will be underway by the time the Nov. 3 election rolls around.
Burke said when the district was addressing the needs of various campuses with Measure G funds they put together an overall vision for work that needed to be done and not simply what they had the money to do. That means much of the needed state clearance that can take up to a year to get has been secured. At the same time projects at campuses that would disrupt the learning process in significant ways were addressed primarily in the Measure G process. Those two factors combined means the district can move needed construction work forward at a faster pace to take advantage of low interest rates and lower construction costs.
The board’s 6-1 decision on Tuesday with trustee Karen Pearsall dissenting to move forward with the bond measure decision is also a nod to the fact the need still exists for work on campuses. Facilities that bond proceeds will help fund health, safety and modernization upgrades are between 25 and 55 years old.
The district has facilities with a combined replacement value of more than $2 billion. It includes 11 schools that are 50 years older and more, three that are 30 to 49 years, and 19 that are 20 to 29 years old.
The $260 million bond addresses the most pressing needs out of $625 million in identified safety needs and instructional space for existing students the district serves.
Burke acknowledged that it might strike some as strange that the district is seeking a bond to address facility issues when all Manteca Unified students will start the upcoming school year on Aug. 6 with remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Those students will eventually be returning to school campuses and the need hasn’t gone away” Burke said.
A simply majority — 50.44 percent — favored the bond in March but given it requires a 55 percent approval the measure failed. The vote was 13,123 for and 12,986 against.
The turnout was considered low given that only 44.51 percent of the 60,878 registered voters cast ballots.
General elections such as on Nov. 3 usually have higher turnouts. Also due to the pandemic, all registered voters will be mailed ballots.
Under state law cities and school districts can only seek bond approvals on statewide ballots such as the March primary and the upcoming November general election. That’s because of the typically higher turnout. The rule was put in place to avoid placing tax measures on ballots that historically have lower turnouts.
Under the law, the next time the district could seek a bond election would be in 2022 if they had opted to pass on the Nov. 3 ballot.
Burke noted not only would interest rates likely be higher by 2022 but so would construction costs.
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