It’s been 23 years since residents of Sunol passed the 1999 School Bond Measure, which added more laptops and helped expand the once-only elementary school to a K-8 school.
But now that residents are in the final years of paying those bonds, district stakeholders are asking for another bond to settle some costly items like replacing roofs and updating the otherwise outdated school – projects which they believe are not feasible without bond funds.
“As a resident here, I would hate to see this place go to waste,” said Sunol Glen Unified School District Board Chair Mike Picard. “I mean, it’s so beautiful and now is the time to fix it before it starts to crumble before our eyes.”
Measure J is the $10.9 million general obligation bond the district placed in the Nov. 8 ballot. If more than 55% of Sunol residents vote in favor of Measure J, it would use a tax rate of $52.10 per $100,000 of assessed value for property owners to fund the various projects.
Sunol is the third school district in the Tri-Valley seeking to issue a bond in the amount of for facility repairs and upgrades. The other two school districts are Pleasanton, which is asking for $395 million in bond dollars, and Livermore, which is asking for $450 million.
The official ballot for Measure J on November 8 will read as follows:
“To improve the quality of educational facilities; make safety and security upgrades; renovate electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems; repair/replace leaky roofs; and build a technology lab, engineering and math; shall the Sunol Glen Unified School District measure pass allowing the issuance of $10,900,000 of bonds at legal interest rates, generating an average of $614,500 per year while the bonds are in circulation, at rates of about 5.2 cents per $100 valuation, with annual audits, citizen oversight, and no money for salaries?”
During a tour of the only school in the district, Sunol Glen School located near downtown Sunol, Picard told the weekly that the school has remained clean and well-maintained over the years, which shows that Everything is going well. But he said most of the problems lie with the facility’s infrastructure, which hasn’t been upgraded in decades.
Picard said if the bail passes, the school has a priority list of projects and will start by replacing the roofs of some of the older buildings like the main one, then focus on creating accessible ramps and entrances to the buildings. and the bathrooms.
“In the main building, we’re concerned about asbestos, lead paint, you know, things that were prevalent at that time,” Picard said. “So when we start to scratch the surface, that’s why the estimate is so high. We might run into some issues, so we don’t want to run out of money.”
The school itself was built in 1925 and since then things have been added and fixed along the way but that has only patched up the bigger problem for things like rotting wood, needs seismic updates and obsolete electrical and plumbing systems.
“The problem is, you keep fixing, fixing, fixing…like the roof,” said Lowell Hoxie, district maintenance and operations manager. “Yes, we did a little section here, we did a little section there, but no, we have to take the roof off and do it all again.”
Hoxie said it had been a while since he knew the school needed major repairs, such as the felt ceiling in the main building which he says is around 40 to 50 years old – he said the duration average felt life was 30 years.
“Just patching doesn’t work…you’re just chasing leaks all the time,” he said.
In addition to the plaster falling from the ceiling, the bond money will fund the construction of more accessible entrances to the ADA for the main building doors, auditorium, and bathroom stalls and entrances.
At present, there is no way for anyone in a wheelchair to get onto the school auditorium stage, access being limited to a short, narrow flight of stairs and on top of that, the only ramp to access the main building is at the back of the school.
“Whether it’s my grandma wanting to come see my kids’ graduation or whether we’re hiring someone who has mobility issues or a kid who comes to school here has issues, it’s not isn’t good,” Picard said of the lack of accessibility at the school.
Picard said the bail will also be for the cafeteria, which doesn’t have air vents or a code-compliant fire suppression system for the ovens in the kitchen, meaning they can’t really cook food in it.
The other big items on the bond list will be; upgrading the laptops in the back of the school, one of which is 40 years old, according to Hoxie; improving overall school security with more fencing and better door locking hardware; and updating the fire sprinkler system – the school currently has the exposed tubes running outside the ceiling rather than inside.
But, much like other school ties in Alameda County, the tie faces opposition from the local Libertarian Party.
Elizabeth Stump, Vice President of the Alameda County Libertarian Party, signed the anti-duty statements that outline how residents shouldn’t be forced to pay more taxes and that the district provides vague reasons in the language of obligation to explain why he needs the money.
“The Measure J at Sunol Glen does not meet the most basic requirements of a Proposition 39 school bond,” Stump told The Weekly. “The first requirement is that the school district draft a list of ‘specific projects’ for the bond before submitting the measure to voters. The district drafted only a vague list that does not include improvement projects. fixed assets.”
She also said most of the projects listed by the district are minor repair projects that can be repaired and there is no need to post a multi-million dollar bond through taxes.
“The promoters’ arguments are misleading,” Stump said. “They say, ‘The tax rate won’t go up.’ The tax rate may not increase, but the amount of residential property taxes will increase significantly to pay off the deposit.”
She also expressed concern about how the money will be spent and did not trust the school board to keep the money local.
However, Picard said that because residents are nearly done repaying the previous 1999 obligation, they realistically won’t see any change in the tax rate they’ve already been paying for several years.
The district attempted to post a bond in March 2020, Measure O of $9.5 million, which Picard said was for the same repairs but was also going to fund the construction of a new multipurpose hall. Measure O obtained a slight majority (50.56%) but did not reach the required threshold of 55% among the 449 participating voters.
After taking surveys of residents in the wake of the Measure O loss, Picard said officials found they didn’t want a multipurpose hall and so the district decided to cut back and wait. the next election cycle so that it will be easier to sell because residents will not have to pay two bonds at the same time.
“Measure J will not increase the current annual tax rate,” according to the district’s website. “Instead, it will extend the old bond program which expires next year and maintain the estimated tax rate that homeowners currently pay.”
Picard said any opposition to the link came from people outside of the Sunol community and guaranteed that all money will go to those projects which he believes are well planned and necessary to continue serving the community.
“If anyone needs anything, we’re neighbors, we help each other,” Picard said. “Our school is kind of at the center of our community. It’s a place where the public gathers, it’s a place where children come to school. All the children from Sunol, who come here, we must, a safe place, a safe environment and the best learning experience they can have.”