Shoreline Unified School District is seeking feedback on a bond measure under consideration for the November ballot to generate funds for facility improvements. A notice that went out to local mailboxes in June said the district must spend $30 million for critical repairs and upgrades to classrooms and school buildings, among other projects, across its five campuses.
As a “basic aid” district, most of Shoreline’s operating funds are from property taxes; it also receives some federal assistance. “While this funding has been a tremendous asset and helped us maintain our campuses over the years, including during the recession, there is also unpredictability in receiving funding this way, demanding that we maintain as much of a reserve as possible,” the letter states. “Also, even as a basic aid district, our annual revenues are generally sufficient for classroom activities, programs and instruction—but not enough to also meet all of our facilities needs.”
Projects could include replacing portables with classrooms, new kitchens at West Marin School and Tomales Elementary, a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) center, a stage at Tomales Elementary, and locker rooms and gym bleachers at Tomales High. The district’s letter also pointed to the need to improve emergency preparedness and technology and internet connectivity across schools.
The projected annual tax rate for the bond measure is $60 per $100,000 taxable property value, with the program projected to cost around $58 million total. Similar to a home loan, bonds would be repaid over 30 years, although, “if the community would prefer, a maximum term for all the bonds could also be established within the ballot measure,” the letter states.
If support for a bond measure is strong, the board says it will call an election; if not, repairs and other improvements will be delayed or not happen at all. The district is inviting community members to weigh in by contacting trustees or Superintendent Bob Raines at (707) 878.2266.
At least one Inverness resident has voiced skepticism so far: In a letter to the editor last week, Francine Allen asked whether facilities improvements are necessary. She pointed to a 2009 bond measure to generate $9.29 million, at a rate of $28 per $100,000 of assessed property tax value, also for facilities improvements. (It passed with 64 percent support.)
Residents also pay an ongoing parcel tax for education programs in the district, which was extended in 2012 for another eight years at a rate of $185 per parcel, with a 2 percent raise each year. Seventy-three percent of residents voted in favor.
Ultimately, Ms. Allen questioned whether Shoreline could put more money into educational programs if it consolidated into fewer schools: “Will maintaining and improving existing buildings get us the quality schools that we’d like to see? Do we need to maintain, improve and service five separate facilities to serve 520 kids? What will Shoreline do if the student population continues to shrink because of our community’s aging population, the diminishing availability of rental units, the inability to create new housing inventory in the area and the fact that most of the existing inventory is selling as second homes?”
This article was corrected on July 24.