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No Mello Roos could mean long bus trip

Some buyers of new homes in the coming years in Manteca may be surprised that their elementary-age children instead of being able to walk to a nearby school will be bused several miles if not farther to go to class.

That’s because several developers are refusing to encumber homes they are building with a Mello-Roos tax to help pay for new school facilities. The tax which is actually paid by whoever buys the home and not the developer is a key to building classroom space to accommodate students generated by growth.

There are only three sources of income to build new school facilities — square footage school fees assessed on all new construction, Mello-Roos taxes, and state bond money. Those three sources typically will not cover the full cost of new construction. And since there is no state bond money for new schools on the horizon, the funding shortfall is actually worse.

The district notes that providing needed classrooms costs the district $13.40 per square foot for single family residential homes. The district, by state law, can only collect a maximum of $3.79 per square foot in growth fees at the time a permit is issued. That accounts for only 28 percent of the costs for adequate classrooms.

That means the developer of a project such as the 99-home Yosemite Greens would be obligated to pay only $873,864 in school fees placing a $2,369,816 shortfall into the lap of the school district.

The bottom line is new neighborhoods such as the Yosemite Greens subdivision just west of the golf course along Airport Way whose developers refuse to annex to existing Mello-Roos district will have to disclose to potential buyers that the children of those buying homes instead of going to Stella Brockman School less than an eighth of a mile away will have to travel at least 2½ miles to the closest non Mello-Roos campus which is Golden West School.

The district is not pursuing such a policy to punish the buyers of new subdivision homes that aren’t in Mello-Roos districts. Instead Manteca Unified is giving those households that pay the Mello-Roos tax front of the line treatment.

That treatment is far from being arbitrary. Court cases, including one in Tracy years ago, have made it clear children  from homes that pay Mello Roos taxes clearly have priority to attend schools that benefit from those taxes over children that come from homes not assessed the Mello-Roos taxes.

In the Tracy case, the district had been busing new students across town to older campuses from Mello-Roos subdivisions instead of bumping students who live in homes not paying the extra tax and were attending a campus that benefitted from Mello-Roos taxes.

To avoid that from happening in Manteca, District Superintendent Clark Burke said attendance boundaries will be adjusted. And in the case of subdivisions such as the proposed Yosemite Greens that is expected to generate 71 students that is surrounded by Mello-Roos neighborhoods, will likely find they are part of the attendance areas for schools across town such as Golden West, Lincoln, Shasta, New Haven and Sequoia that are not benefactors of Mello-Roos funds.

Clark stressed Manteca offers quality education at all of its schools. The only noticeable difference is children from new developments not in a Mello Roos district such as Yosemite Greens will not be going to nearby neighborhood schools and could possibly be bused more than 5 miles one-way depending on space availability at specific grade levels of the non Mello Roos campuses.

The district is using growth fees to create additional space for students at various schools.  The $159 million Measure M bond was authorized by voters to address only health and safety issues as well as modernization at existing schools.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email