District is ready for Measure B

10/30/2014

Bolinas and Stinson Beach voters have an unprecedented opportunity to transform the Bolinas-Stinson Union School District into a first-rate 21st century learning environment by voting yes on Measure B, a general obligation bond targeted to address facility needs at the district’s two campuses—Stinson Beach, which houses kindergarten through grade two, and Bolinas, which hosts grades three through eight.

Our school campuses are indisputably beautiful, but our facilities are outdated and many classrooms need upgrades to meet current standards. Education has evolved significantly over the last 30 years; curriculum requirements and instructional methods have changed, and there’s been a revolution in technology. 

While some modernization has taken place recently, the district has not addressed comprehensive facility needs in over 30 years. The school board and administration are acting proactively and prudently in placing the general obligation bond on the ballot at this time. Bond rates are low and monies will stretch further. 

Measure B has a plan that has been years in the making. Beginning with the 2012 Facilities Needs Committee and extending to the 2014 Fiscal Oversight & Facilities Planning Advisory Committee and the 2014 Community Survey on Facilities, numerous staff and community members have devoted considerable time identifying comprehensive facility improvements needed to enhance our academic program. 

Measure B enables the district to address such facility issues as replacing the seismically questionable Quesada with a functional multi-purpose space (possibly a gymnasium, a performing arts space large enough to accommodate our entire school community of 120 kids and their families); building a science lab; adding a classroom, possibly to accommodate a state-mandated universal preschool program; renovating art shops to current safety standards; and many other identified needs. See the ballot book for a complete facility list.

If Measure B passes, oversight includes both a citizen’s oversight committee, which would insure all funds are only spent on approved bond projects, and a dedicated facilities committee comprised of community and staff members that would prioritize projects, create a master plan (with an architect) and make recommendations to the board. There will be ample community leadership in directing wise use of taxpayer monies.

General obligation bonds are calculated on assessed property value rather than on market value (see your property tax bill for current assessed valuation). With an estimated tax rate of $30 per $100,000 of assessed valuation per year, a homeowner would pay $30 per year for an assessed value of $100,000; $90 per year for $300,000; or $180 per year for $600,000.

There is no senior bond exemption; however, longtime property owners have built-in protection thanks to Prop. 13, passed in 1978, which rolled back assessed property values to 1975 rates, capped property value increases to no more than 2 percent per year and tax increases at 1 percent (thereby decimating the state’s education system, in addition to local city and county revenues).

With Prop. 13 in place, local property owners and voters are largely responsible for supporting local schools—both their programs and facilities; the state is minimally involved. There is a silver lining, however. According to a report published by Duke University on the effect of school quality on housing prices, “it has been found that better quality schools increase the real estate value of houses in their areas, [therefore] improving schools can be a method for improving neighborhoods and stimulating economic growth.”

With the guidance of our new superintendent, John Carroll, and our principal, Jason Richardson, I am confident the next few years will yield impressive educational enhancements for staff and students alike.

Can we “kick the can” down the road? Absolutely. But we’ve laid the groundwork to tackle these needs now. Measure B is an investment in our children’s academic future and our long-term community welfare. 

 

Christine Cunha is a district parent, a member of the Fiscal Oversight & Facilities Planning Committee and a candidate for the school board. A West Marin resident since 1998, she lives in Bolinas with her husband and two children. She owns a bookkeeping and small business consulting firm and has served on several nonprofit boards.