Measure C bond issue goes to vote
As the vote for Measure C approaches, concerned Truckee residents voice both support and opposition.
Measure C, a $35 million bond proposal that will target the overcrowding problem at Truckee schools, will go before Truckee voters next week on Tuesday, March 2 in a special election.
Funds generated by the bond issue would be used to build a new middle school, convert Sierra Mountain Middle School into an elementary school and expand core facilities at Tahoe Truckee High School and Truckee Elementary School.
The bond issue would also bring more technology into all Truckee schools and upgrade maintenance, plumbing, heating, electrical and security systems.
Because of overcrowding, SMMS students now have one-way traffic between classes and TES students have five separate lunches, said Marlys Zusy, a member and spokesperson for the Measure C Citizens’ Committee.
The overcrowding is due mainly to Truckee’s recent surge of growth and expansion.
At last week’s Truckee Republican Women Federated meeting for the month of February, Monty Folsom, Director of Business Services for the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, spoke on the issue.
Since 1987, Truckee schools have had an increase in enrollment by 1,320 students, he said. So far, the district has relied on portable classrooms to support the increased enrollment.
Those skeptical of Measure C are concerned that the school district has not looked at alternative choices to solve the overcrowding problems.
“The schools have shown little effort to show what they are doing for the community to support this bond,” said Truckee resident Edward Lehman, a father of two TTUSD students.
One of Lehman’s main concerns is that if the bond issue passes, the district will want to ask for more money to support a new school and expanded facilities.
“Once this bond is passed, the district will ask for more money to support more teachers, supplies and equipment,” said Lehman.
Lehman thinks that portables work as a good alternative to support the growth and overcrowding in Truckee schools.
“With portables, you can use them if you need them, and if you don’t need them anymore, you can get rid of them,” he said. Lehman is worried that if the district builds a new school and expands on others, Truckee residents may be left with a structure not utilized.
“I do agree our schools need to be updated at certain capacities. There’s a lot of good with Measure C, but every time I question the people on the (school) board to show me what other alternatives there are, they don’t answer. They just say what Measure C will do,” said Lehman.
Rolf Godon, also a Truckee resident, shares Lehman’s concerns about the necessity of the bond issue.
He believes there should be some better answers to overcrowding than continually asking local citizens to pay more and more property taxes for education.
“I am pretty upset by (Truckee’s) growth,” said Godon. “I like the rural nature of the area. Why should I get charged for this growth?”
Godon also wonders about how the district is using developer fees and other funding sources. Developer fees are generated by taxing property owners a little less than two dollars per square foot of building.
Monies from the fees are then used for the schools. However, these fees must be used in five years time, according to Daniel Collin, also a member of the Measure C Committee.
“Aren’t the (developer fees) to off-set the pressures on the school system?” asked Godon. “Certainly quality education is important, but we need to take another look at how we’re spending money. I think (Measure C) is a good cause for the children, but I don’t think that it is the only answer.”
Both Lehman and Godon think the district needs to seriously consider year-round schools as one possible alternative. It would make more sense to spread the use of school facilities over a 12-month period rather than the 9 months used now, said Rolf.
Those in support of the bond issue stress the importance that it passes to help alleviate the overcrowded conditions at Truckee schools and improve the quality of education.
According to Folsom and other committee and board members, the core facilities at all Truckee schools do not accommodate the students and the alternatives limited.
For one thing, because developers fees must be used within a five-year time period, in five years these fees will not generate enough to build a middle school, which will cost an estimated $21 million, and make other renovations, said Collin.
“We have been forced to do a Band-Aid approach based on the developers fees,” he said.
“And if we continue with this growth, even year-round schools will not solve the problem. It will still be overcrowded in three to four years. Even right now, we are so impacted, year-round schools would not solve the overcrowding,” said Collin.
According to Zusy, year-round schools are expensive to implement. It is hard on the facilities because there is no down-time for maintenance, she said.
According to the committee, other funding sources have been tapped out. The California Lottery represents about 2.5 percent of the total TTUSD budget and is used for operational costs only. Measure S funds are used to supplement the district’s operating funds and provide programs and equipment that would otherwise not be available.
Measure D, which was passed by district voters in 1992, raised $15 million and was used for urgent site renovations and expansion needs and construction of Glenshire Elementary. Through the use of matching funds, the district increased that figure to $25 million.
Also, California voters passed Measure A in November, 1998, a statewide bond that will provide a $6.2 billion for schools. However, the only way the district is eligible to receive any matching funds from this bond, is if Measure C passes, said district members. Otherwise, these funds cannot be touched.
Collin and Zusy argue that even with these expenditures, there is still not enough money being spent on Truckee students. The state of California spends $1,000 per student less than the national average, said Collin.
At TES 54 percent of classrooms are portables, 53 percent at Glenshire Elementary and 57 percent at SMMS.
“Developer fees have had to be used for portable classrooms. This allows for expansion and contraction of the community,” said Zusy, mother of three children. “But portable classrooms cost way more than the developers fee income. If we didn’t use the portable classrooms, we would have extra monies.”
Zusy explained that everyone at the schools has adjusted to the portable classrooms and the overcrowding, but students and staff deserve better facilities.
Portables are currently clustered around the schools and taking space in valuable, safe play areas, the committee said.
“The fact is, we can accommodate all of our kids right now. But what are they paying for? They are paying for lack of space,” said Folsom last week.
If the $35 million bond issue passes, the cost to the taxpayers will be approximately $40 per $100,000 of assessed property value. This will cost the average homeowner about $5 per month.
The Measure C bond issue is the second attempt by the district to pass the $35 million bond issue for the construction of a middle school and the upgrade of school campuses. If the issue is approved by voters, the state may match funds for an additional $10 million to $20 million for the project.
The last attempt failed in a close vote in April. The bond issue requires a 66.6 percent majority to pass.
The Town of Truckee Town Council officially voiced their support of the bond issue on Tuesday. In a proclamation they urged the Truckee community to support Measure C.
If the issue passes, a citizen’s advisory panel comprised of community members will be formed to oversee expenditures and projects and will control 100 percent of the money, including matching funds, said Zusy.
Students talk on issue
If the $35 million bond issue passes, students will be impacted as well. They are concerned about the overcrowding in the schools and the alternatives they are faced with to control the problem.
“I think that (Measure C) would definitely be a good idea,” said Tahoe Truckee High School freshman and school historian Alison Bergen. “I was at the middle school last year, and when it would rain, the overcrowding was a serious issue. We didn’t have anywhere to go.”
“I think if the taxpayers were in our situation, they would support the measure too,” she said.
Bergen said the school that needs the most attention is the middle school.
Sophomore Brian Kendrick, also remembers the crowding situation at the middle school.
“At the middle school a couple of years ago it was way overcrowded, like we were cattle walking around,” said Kendrick, sophomore class treasurer.
Seniors Elia Burril and Dawn Vanscoy also hope the bond issue passes.
“I think its necessary. It’s something that would help students. Truckee is enlarging and we need to be ready for that,” said Burril, Associated Student Body president.
Many students find the portable classrooms uncomfortable. They are hard to get to and make it a hassle just to get to lockers, said some students.
“They’re cold and it’s hard to get out there all the time. I don’t feel as comfortable when I’m out there,” said Vanscoy, A.S.B. treasurer. Vanscoy also said the gymnasium feels especially crowded during rallies.
“I hate the (portables). They don’t feel part of the school,” said Burril.
Year-round school is not a very popular idea with many of the students. Vanscoy said although it is an option, she really likes having a long summer break. It breaks up the school year nicely, she said.
“I don’t think year-round school would work very good. I think we now just need to expand the school district,” said senior Jesse Steverman, A.S.B. vice president.
“I’d be willing to pay for (Measure C). It’s all worth it. Education is the biggest thing and we need to get our system together and you can’t do that with the schools so overcrowded,” said Steverman.
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