Three Rivers passes first school bond since 1985

Measure E passes with 64% of the vote, will provide $4 million over 30 years for repairs

By Reggie Ellis Reggie_SGN

THREE RIVERS – Three Rivers residents would have voted down a property tax to generate money to repair the community’s only school. Luckily, the Three Rivers Union School District decided to propose a school bond instead.
More than 64% of Three Rivers voters approved Measure E, a $4 million bond measure to renovate and repair the Three Rivers Union School’s (TRUS) aging facilities that house about 130 students as well as 20 teachers and staff. Measure E was the first property tax the school has passed since 1985, when 69% of voters approved Measure C, the special tax to build the school’s gymnasium, which is now in need of repairs.

“This means a lot for our small school,” said Susan Sherwood, who is not only the superintendent, but also the principal and eighth grade teacher at the single school district. “I appreciate the people of the community for coming out and supporting us. They showed they care about our school and that a community without a school isn’t a community for long.”
Three Rivers voters have denied the two previous school district tax measures. In 2012, the school district attempted to pass Measure I, a $60 increase in property tax per year. The money would have been used to attract and retain qualified teachers, protect academic programs, expand the library and technology resources and maintain facilities. It fell just short, 63%, of the two-thirds vote needed to pass.

In November 2010, 56% voted in favor of Measure V, a $56 property tax increase per year for five years, but fell short (56%) of the needed two-thirds vote. The money raised from the parcel tax would have helped the district maintain single grade classrooms at every grade level, continue to provide the arts, music, and sports programs, and provide educational fieldtrips.
Unlike the previous two measures, Sherwood said the district decided to attempt a school bond instead of tax measure. Under Proposition 39, school bonds only require 55% of the vote to pass. Californians approved Prop. 39 in November 2000 to lower the threshold for school bond measures from two-thirds to 55%.

“The percentage of votes was similar across all the elections, so our supporters are our supporters,” Sherwood said. “They have come out and supported us every election.”

Sherwood said most of the bond money will be concentrated in the middle school wing of the kindergarten through eighth grade school. The hexagon shaped building will have new flooring, dual pane windows and ceiling to repair cracks and leaks and provide better insulation. All of the wings, including the office, will get wheelchair accessible bathrooms and newer, more energy efficient heating and air conditioning. In addition to classroom and restroom space, the bond will provide funding to drill a new water well and to upgrade aging sewer and water pipes.

Property owners will be assessed $30 per $100,000 of assessed value per year, generating about $239,000 annually. None of the money can be used for salaries and the measure will also create a citizens oversight committee to ensure that the money is being spent on facilities. The median home price in Three Rivers is about $308,000, according to online real estate database Zillow. That means most homeowners will pay an additional $30 per year on their property taxes for the next 30 years.

TRUS may be getting more money from the state as well. Sherwood said the district applied for state modernization funding six years ago and was labeled a financial hardship case by the state, meaning the state would pay 100% of the project. But without any statewide school bonds and in the midst of the Great Recession, major projects, such as the new roof on the gym, went unfunded for years. Sherwood said the school district renewed its plans for another cycle, but that initiated a new calculation which put TRUS over the debt limit for hardship. But the new roof on the gym couldn’t wait, forcing the district to user modernization funds for the fix.

“It was an emergency repair and something we couldn’t wait on,” Sherwood said.

The state reimbursed the district for $240,000, the 40% match from the state, but Sherwood said the district will reapply for the remaining $600,000.

“We are hoping the state will see we did everything we were supposed to do and that they will provide us with the funding we were entitled to when there was no money,” Sherwood said.

Other school bonds:

Measure B

It’s too early to call the vote for Ducor Union Elementary’s $2.1 million school bond. As of press time, the vote was knotted at 64 votes. The 50-50 split is a loss for a school bond which needs 55% to pass. It is unknown how many ballots, if any, are left to be counted. If it passes, the bond will generate about $141,000 annually for the single-school district in southern Tulare County to modernize classrooms, restrooms and support facilities as well as replace and repair old plumbing and electrical systems. The bond would also form an independent oversight committee to oversee bond expenditures.

Measure C

This was an important election for the small, north county towns of Yettem and Seville. The sister communities were voting on a $750,000 school bond as well as whether or not they should create a community services district to manager their public sewer and water systems. The school bond, Measure C, would generate $49,000 annually to repair or replace leaky roofs, construct a multipurpose room/gym, and modernize/renovate outdated classrooms, restrooms and school facilities. The bond was leading by just two votes and it is unknown how many votes remain to be counted from residents within the single school district between Orosi and Woodlake. The CSD formation, Measure Y, was leading by just one vote, but The Sun-Gazette is unsure how many votes remain to be counted for this district.

Start typing and press Enter to search