Election 2014: Waiting game begins for Truckee’s Measure U | SierraSun.com

Election 2014: Waiting game begins for Truckee’s Measure U

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com

TRUCKEE, Calif. — It appears lakeside students within the Tahoe Unified School District will be learning at upgraded campuses in the coming years.

Whether those in Truckee will, however, remains to be seen.

Initial results from Tuesday's general election show that the $62 million lakeside school bond measure known as Measure E passed, while Truckee's $114 million Measure U failed.

"We knew from the beginning it would be a tight election," TTUSD Superintendent Rob Leri said Wednesday morning.

In Placer and El Dorado counties, Measure E garnered a total of 58.62 percent in favor, with 41.38 against. For Measure U, 52.27 percent voted in favor, with 47.73 percent against, according to Placer and Nevada counties.

Both measures require 55 percent voter approval to pass.

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"I'm sad that we don't value our kids more," said Kim Szczurek, TTUSD board president and a proponent of both measures, referring to the unofficial results of Measure U's failure.

Results compiled by each California county on election night are only semi-official, as a number of vote-by-mail and other ballots from a variety of county-wide precincts remain outstanding.

This year, more than 10,000 are outstanding for Nevada County, with several thousand expected in Placer, too.

It's unclear as of this writing exactly how many count for Tahoe/Truckee voters, and how they might impact the final results for Measure U and E.

U: 'THE BEST WE CAN'

The district will continue its ongoing maintenance on Truckee-area schools should the final results show Measure U failure, Szczurek said.

"We'll do the best we can," she said, while ensuring student safety and high quality instruction.

Leri said the district will continue to look for other funding sources, such as facility grants and state money to pay for needed Truckee-area improvements.

Eric Premack, CEO of Charter Schools Development Center and an opponent of Measure U, said he hopes the district takes away the message of making a stronger commitment to ongoing maintenance and accountability in the bond measure.

The decrease in ongoing maintenance and facilities upkeep; bond funds being used to support short-term technology upgrades; and the measure's large size for a district where enrollment isn't growing significantly were some of the concerns he raised during the measure's campaign.

"While the quality of facilities is important, the quality of staff and programming is more important," Premack said Wednesday. "I think if the district manages its resources properly it will have more than enough provide to quality programming to both the Truckee and lake side."

The last facilities bond to pass in the Truckee area was in 1999, Szczurek said, which financed the construction of Alder Creek Middle School, a new gym at Truckee Elementary School and cafeteria improvements at Truckee High School.

A pair of similar bonds put forth to the Truckee area in June 2008 and November 2008 failed.

E: WHAT'S NEXT

Should the outcome for Measure E remain unchanged, the first bond issuance to fund lakeside school improvements could be in early January 2015, Leri said.

The estimated tax rate for the $62 million bond is $29.75 per $100,000 of assessed property value, a charge that will appear on residents' 2015-16 tax bill, he said.

Taxpayers would pay off the bond over 33 years.

Funds would pay for Tahoe Lake Elementary upgrades, including reconfiguring the parking lot and drop-off area; upgrading electrical/heating/air conditioning systems and technology infrastructure; and campus reconfiguration. The historic portion of the school will be preserved and influence new construction, Leri said.

Improvements planned for Kings Beach Elementary include a new classroom wing; upgraded electrical/heating/air condition systems; fencing and lighting.

As for North Tahoe School and High School, technology infrastructure upgrades, construction of a new high school music room, and safety and security upgrades are planned.

"… We'll be able to really upgrade the two elementary schools — that's really exciting," Szczurek said.

'FULL STEAM AHEAD'

A preliminary timeline for Measure E projects anticipates construction at Tahoe Lake Elementary and Kings Beach Elementary in late 2016, with North Tahoe as early as 2017, Leri said, if U indeed does fail.

Construction is dependent on the time it takes to secure permit approvals from the state and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, and complete designs.

To ensure funds are spent appropriately, a independent citizens' oversight committee will be formed within 60 days after the school board enters election results into its minutes, according to Proposition 39.

The law regulates the committee must have at least seven members, serving for a two-year term, for no more than two consecutive terms, without compensation.

Representation must include a member active in a business association; a member active in a senior citizens' organization; a member active in a bona fide taxpayers' organization; a parent or guardian of a child enrolled in the district; and a district parent or guardian active in a parent-teacher organization.

In addition, an annual independent financial and performance audit will occur until bond proceeds are spent, according to TTUSD.

"We're going to go full steam ahead on the Tahoe City side," Szczurek said.

Sun Managing Editor Kevin MacMillan contributed to this report.