School district plans Martis bus center
School bus facilities are being pushed off campuses to make way for new school projects, requiring a new transportation maintenance facility for Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.
“We’re looking to build that project for $6 million. We’re going to do everything in our power to keep it at $5 million, but most likely it will be $6 million,” said TTUSD Superintendent Pat Gemma.
The transportation maintenance facility is planned to be built on Joerger Road in Martis Valley, according to John Britto, director of facilities.
“We know we need the project. We have other projects operating in a domino effect waiting for this project,” said Britto.
One example is the bus garage at Kings Beach Elementary School, which will be torn down to make way for the student activity center being planned for the school.
In a school board meeting last Thursday, TTUSD Business Manager Monty Folsom also said the bus parking at North Tahoe High School will be eliminated. Transportation facilities at Truckee Elementary and Truckee High School will also be impacted by growth at those two schools, district information said.
To help meet another critical need, the school district is seeking financing to also put down $1 million worth of asphalt at schools.
“Asphalt is a large need in this district and I’d like to see some money set aside for that,” Britto said.
The TTUSD Board of Trustees Thursday listened to various financing options, all of which included $1.5 million each from the Measure C bond for Truckee schools and the Measure R bond for Tahoe schools. Both facility bonds were passed by voters last spring to fund improvements and new schools for Truckee and Tahoe.
The district plans to borrow another $4 million and use income from developer fees to repay the debt.
This funding source for the school district comes from fees charged on new development in the school district, which supports the need for new schools by an increased population.
Currently, the school district collects between $2 million and $2.5 million a year in these fees, but it is expected to level off to $1.8 million in a couple of years, according to district information.
Because how much will be collected in developer fees is dependent on building activities each year, future income in that category is uncertain.
District staff asked the TTUSD board about some possible ways to repay a debt for the transportation facility if developer fees were to lower or even be discontinued.
“We need to figure out what we would do to pay it back if developer fees went away,” Gemma said.
He warned that if a pending state measure to lower voter approval for school taxes from two-thirds to a majority was passed, then some legislators might look to eliminate developer fees for school districts.
Some of the possibilities included refinancing the debt and making the payments from the district’s general fund, using the interest from the Measure C bond and the Measure R bond, or ask voters to pass a small bond to pay off the transportation maintenance facility debt.
“We were really counting on the interest, especially at the middle school and high school where we really need the money. We’re looking at a project at the high school that is just going to eat this money like that,” said Sue Kyler, a member of the Measure R Oversight Committee.
While Britto has met with the chairs of each of the oversight committees, the school board decided to get input from the Truckee and the North Tahoe citizen groups before making a decision.
They will decide about a back-up plan to repay the transportation facility debt if developer fees change.
“No one wants to spend the interest money. The board will have to make a tough decision,” said School Board member Suzanne Prouty.
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