With the Pleasanton school board unanimously adopting the new Facilities Master Plan during its June 23 regular meeting, the next big step for the trustees is to order a school bond election this November -- and get the measure passed.
Pleasanton Unified School District staff began the process of updating the Facilities Master Plan in the spring of 2021. Since then the district has partnered with LPA Design Studios, the main consulting firm working on the master plan. The firm spent months discussing with stakeholders and taking surveys from students, staff, community members and the school board to figure out what priorities to address in the district.
Some of the priorities that the master plan is set to tackle in stages will be deferred maintenance to things like bathrooms; modernizing and new construction of classrooms; more funding for transitional kindergarten; restructuring of the visual performing arts in high schools; cafeteria and air conditioning and heating equipment.
A key component of the funding strategy to complete the facilities projects involves taking a new bond measure -- up to $450 million -- to Pleasanton voters in the upcoming general election.
A tier system will be implemented to organize the order of which items to focus on first. Tier 1 will prioritize funding for the gym and theater constructions at both Amador Valley and Foothill high schools as well as new classrooms at Vintage Hills Elementary and new transitional kindergarten classrooms.
The master plan is assigning an estimated $203 million for Amador so the music facilities can move to a new building to make way for three fitness and wrestling rooms as well as building new music facilities in tandem with the school's theater.
Foothill would also get an updated theater and gym that would be closer to the outdoor fields. While the master plan assigns cost amounts for the sake of securing funding for these projects, it does not mean these plans are set in stone, officials said.
But in order to fully fund the master plan, the district would need to pay $983 million. That's where a new bond measure comes into play.
During the same June 23 meeting, board members reviewed the draft of a resolution ordering a school bond election this November of up to $450 million. Confirming the final dollar amount is among the remaining steps under consideration for the board.
According to staff, the plan will be to use $300 million from that bond to complete the Tier 1 projects of the master plan. The remainder of Tier 2 projects getting funding and being completed will depend on the bid market and other construction factors from tier one projects.
Board members reviewed the bond language to make sure it aligned with their goals so that voters will be more inclined to vote to approve the bond. The language was developed by staff to include all the top priorities in the master plan
If the bond resolution is adopted later this month, it must then be delivered to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters' Office and the clerk of the county Board of Supervisors. The election for the bond will be consolidated with the statewide election to be held on Nov. 8.
One of the main points of criticism the board had on the bond language was in the 75-word sentence that will be in the voter packet as a description of what the bond will address.
Board Vice President Steve Maher said he wanted it to be clear that while most of these projects in the master plan are new, it should be mentioned that some are continuations of work already being done with the previous $270 million general obligation Measure I1 bond that voters passed in 2016.
"I don't want people to think that 'oh my goodness, I thought we put all this bond money into doing this and now they're asking again,'" Maher said. "I want them to realize that we started and we've made a lot of progress, but there's still things that have to be done in these areas."
The district already failed to pass a second bond measure after Measure I1, with the $323 million Measure M bond falling short by 2.6% in the March 2020 primary election.
Maher, along with Board President Mark Miller, agreed to adding the word "continuing," which district staff will be working on along with adding more information in the voter packet on what new technological amenities will be included in the master plan.
Assistant superintendent Ahmad Sheikholeslami also provided the board information on estimates of the average annual tax rate, the highest tax rate and the total debt service on the bond.
He said the bond will utilize a tax rate of $55 per $100,000 of assessed value and that the bond program assumes a more conservative long-term growth rate of 4%.
In other business
The board approved its 2022-23 school budget plan, which includes plans to continue eliminating staff positions and adopting a more conservative budget overall due to inflation and economic challenges.
During a June 9 board meeting, Sheikholeslami said letting staff go is due to the district losing about 800 students from 2019 to 2021, which affected the district's main form of income.
According to the budget, there will also be a $7.1 million deficit to the expenditures budget. Sheikholeslami said during the June 20 board meeting that the district will have adequate funds to handle that deficit and meet the 3% requirement for a reserve fund.
There will also be an increase in the cost-of-living adjustment to 6.56% and an increase to salaries.
During the meeting staff were still waiting on Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign the state's 2022-23 budget plan, which he did on Thursday. According to the approved $300 billion budget, the base funding for the Local Control Funding Formula, the mechanism through which most of the state's public schools are funded, will increase by $9 billion.
Now, district staff will make any adjustments necessary to reflect the newly enacted state budget at a 45-day budget update or at a first interim report session.