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Not living in Mello-Roos home could mean busing
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Living in a home that is assessed a Mello-Roos tax could become a deciding factor in the next few years whether children living south of the 120 Bypass in Manteca will attend neighborhood schools.
It means as growth fills up Woodward, Veritas, and Nile Garden elementary schools the most likely students that could be bused to campuses miles away north of the 120 Bypass are those living in homes not assessed Mello-Roos taxes.
District Superintendent Jason Messer confirmed that scenario is likely when  schools reach capacity. The conservative projections based on home construction estimate there will be 1,377 additional students in the next five years pushing the overall district enrollment past 25,000 students. Of those, 377 are expected to be added at the high school level and 950 in transitional kindergarten through eighth grade. That is enough growth to fill a typical Manteca Unified elementary campus of 1,000 students.
Court rulings have made it clear that homes assessed Mello-Roos taxes have a higher priority for children living in them to attend schools built in part with the special tax than those who live in homes that aren’t part of a Mello-Roos district. That applies to existing homes as well as homes yet to be built. 
It is based on the fact Mello-Roos homes are specifically paying extra taxes to create classroom space.
The expected classroom space crunch is coming due to significant housing growth in Manteca as well as Lathrop could also change the rules of the resale market. Real estate agents often will point out if a home doesn’t have Mello-Roos taxes as a selling point as it means a lower cost for ownership. But if buyers have school-aged children, living in a home that is assessed Mello-Roos taxes would essentially be a “get-into-a-neighborhood-school ticket” to avoid busing as schools hit capacity.
Of the 18 subdivisions under construction or moving forward in Manteca, two are in Mello-Roos districts, one has a mitigated agreement that is an acceptable alternative to being in a Mello-Roos, three are in active negotiations, and developers of 11 projects have made no movement.
The last one — Griffin Park — has just signed a letter of intent that will create the district’s fourth Mello-Roos district. Messer said the new Mello-Roos district would capture primarily projects south of the 120 Bypass and ultimately could help fund the city’s fourth comprehensive high school envisioned on land MUSD already owns on Tinnin Road.
“We’re local builders,” said Mike Atherton, one of the principals in Griffin Park. “We need good schools. They are important to the community.”
The other major players in Griffin Park are Toni and Bob Raymus of Raymus Homes, Al Boyce, and Bill Filios.
Griffin Park is a planned community of more than 1,000 single family homes   aimed at serving four distinct income brackets of home buyers on 339 acres stretching from a point north of Woodward Avenue to Sedan Avenue bordering the west side of South Main Street/South Manteca Road.
The school board is expected in the next few months to give direction on whether to move forward with the recommendation of the Growth Steering Committee on the best ways for the district to add capacity for between 1,500 and 2,000 more students within three years.
Those recommendations include:
uConstruct Ethel Allen Elementary School in the Mossdale Landing neighborhood in Lathrop west of Interstate 5. The school district already owns the land.
uAdd a wing of classrooms at Lincoln School and redistrict the school’s attendance areas to include areas south of the 120 Bypass.
uSignificantly expand Nile Garden School to accommodate upwards of 1,000 students.
uAdd additional classroom capacity at Manteca High.
Between $22.2 million in development fees as well as $55.4 million in Mello-Roos special taxes and bond sale receipts, the district has $67.6 million available for new construction. The new elementary campus in Lathrop is expected to run between $25 million and $30 million while the other classroom projects could easily consume up to another $10 million leaving less than $30 million for the next wave of construction to accommodate growth.
Nile Garden happens to be among the five schools included in the next phase of Measure G modernization work. The others are French Camp, George McParland, and Neil Hafley schools.
The Measure G budget for non-growth improvements at Nile Garden is estimated at $7.1 million. That money will be spent on major and deferred maintenance, health and safety, and code compliance. That work would be done in such a manner that it would place infrastructure improvements to connect seamlessly with non-Measure G work that would be done to accommodate additional students.
Lincoln School’s just completed modernization includes infrastructure stubbed off for a future classroom wing to handle growth. The state, when reviewing the Lincoln School modernization plans, gave tentative approval to eventually add more classrooms at the Powers Avenue campus.
Adding classrooms to existing elementary campuses is a cost effective way of increasing capacity. That’s because they already have big ticket items such as multi-purpose rooms, infrastructure such as water and sewer pipes, playgrounds, parking lots, and other support facilities such as libraries and offices in place. That leaves only the need to build classrooms and perhaps additional restrooms.