School district hopes voters see ‘Sunnyside’ of bond

Sunnyside Union Elementary School District places $2 million Measure O on November ballot to make critical upgrades, repairs

STRATHMORE – Sunnyside Elementary is like a second home to Steve Tsuboi. He enrolled in kindergarten there in 1974, graduated from K-8 school in 1983, started teaching at the Strathmore school in 1993 and has been superintendent/principal of its 360 students since 2004. And like the home he owns, Tsuboi knows when it’s time to spackle the nail holes, primer and repaint, and when it’s time to replace the roof, renovate the bathroom and install a new air conditioner.

“We have about $10 million worth of projects that need to be done at the site,” Tsuboi said. “In general, the school is outdated and needs to be modernized.”

Tsuboi said the single-school district’s board of trustees voted in July to place a $2 million school bond on the November ballot after several months of gathering input from staff, teachers, parents, community leaders and an architect. That’s a lot less than $10 million, but would generate enough money to address the aging school’s most critical needs identified in a School Facilities Needs Analysis, such as: Repairing or replacing leaky roofs; modernizing outdated classrooms, restrooms and school facilities; making health, safety and handicapped accessibility improvements; upgrading inadequate electrical systems; and repairing or replacing outdated heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. Titled Measure O, the text of the bond measure reads as follows:

“To improve the quality of Sunnyside Elementary School; repair/replace leaky roofs; modernize classrooms, restrooms and school facilities; and make health, safety and handicapped accessibility improvements; shall the measure of Sunnyside Union School District be adopted authorizing $2,000,000 of bonds at legal rates, generating approximately $124,000 annually while bonds are outstanding with levies of approximately 3 cents per $100 assessed value, with annual audits, independent citizens’ oversight, no money for salaries and all money for local projects?”

The tax rate per property owner is estimated to be $30 per $100,000 of assessed valuation per year. Assessed valuations are the value placed on property by the County to calculate property taxes and are lower than market values used to buy and sell homes. Homeowners can find their current assessed valuation on their property tax statement. The median home value in Strathmore is just under $90,000 per year, meaning residents will pay less than $2.50 per month on average.

Like Tsuboi, many of the those involved in Sunnyside are second and third generation families at the school. The school consists of about three wings with 20 classrooms, most of which were built in the 1940s. Tsuboi said this would be the first time in the rural school district’s history they have gone to the voters with a bond measure.

The bond measure will need to garner 55% of the vote to pass. There are 806 registered voters living within the district. In the 2016 General Election, Strathmore had a voter turnout of about 10%, meaning the bond measure may only need about 50 votes to pass.

“We decided to put on the ballot and see what the voters think,” Tsuboi said.

If the measure does not pass, Tsuboi said classrooms and school facilities will continue to deteriorate. Delaying the upgrades could make them more costly and eventually eat into funds that would otherwise go to classroom instruction.

“Today, the scope of improvements needed at the Sunnyside Union School District is far more than the current funding sources available,” the district stated in a letter to parents. “The funding which the District receives from the state is intended to be used for the day-to-day business of educating children and not the cost of upgrading and modernizing facilities.”

By law, all funds have to be spent locally and cannot be taken by the state. Furthermore, an independent citizens’ oversight committee will be established to ensure that bond funds are properly spent. Also, by law, there must be annual audits and no bond money can be used for teacher or administrative salaries.

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