Education / Schools

Election 2020: Measure O

Supermajority across three counties required to pass $30.5 million in bonds for improvements to the Aromas-San Juan Unified School District.

In regards to ballot measures for the upcoming election on Nov. 3, Measure O seeks the authorization of $30.5 million in bonds to pay for improvements to schools in the Aromas-San Juan Unified School District, including increased school security, structural repairs to existing facilities, and construction of new classrooms. The school district straddles Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito counties, and the measure will appear on the district ballots of all three counties. It requires a supermajority (55%) to pass.

The bonds will require repayment through the extension of a current property tax levy. The levy is based on the property value, not the market value, and will come to roughly $0.0507 per $100 of assessed value. A home assessed at the median price in San Benito County of $651,000, for example, would be levied an additional tax of $332.01 for the duration of the measure. 

All eligible property tax exemptions will be honored and those properties will be taxed at a lower rate. 

The levy would be collected through the end of fiscal year 2051-52, and would amount to revenue of approximately $2 million a year. The cost of repaying the bonds, including principal and interest, is estimated to total $56.8 million if all bonds are sold.

A “yes” vote would authorize the district to sell the bonds, a “no” vote would stop the issuance of the bonds.

District Superintendent Michele Huntoon, who wrote the tax rate statement presented with Measure O, said the ballot measure first and foremost fills a critical and immediate need for structural repair.

“Our students deserve to be in safe buildings,” Huntoon said. “We have seismic issues at San Juan School that have been there for a number of years and we have to take care of it. The bonds sold at the state level are not providing enough to keep up with the necessary maintenance and repairs.”

Passing Measure O would also allow the district to apply for matching funds from the state, which would ultimately reduce the number of bonds that would need to be issued.

“The state has set aside money for this kind of repair, to deal with seismic issues,” Huntoon said. “Depending on what kind of program we apply for, the state might do a 64/40 split or a 50/50 split.”

Doing structural repair at San Juan School is the short-term goal of this measure. The longer-term goal, according to Huntoon, is to be able to address similar issues at the rest of the schools in the district that are less immediately critical, but still require attention as soon as possible.

“We are working with our master facility plan and that will tell us what our needs are and let us determine the size of the bond,” she said. “But we have to look at both what we need now and what we need in the future. When these schools were built they were not built with the technology needs we see today. But this bond is looking at the health and safety of our kids first and foremost, and our kids deserve that.”

San Benito County Board of Supervisors District 2 candidate Kollin Kosmicki, Aromas-San Juan School District President Jennifer Colby, San Juan School teacher Teri Marshall, and Aromas-San Juan School District trustee Drew Mcalister signed the official Argument in Favor of Measure O. There is no opposition argument filed at this time.

 

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Robert Eliason

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