Bond Measure to Appear on November Ballot

From the July 14, 2010 edition. Purchase or subscribe to the dead tree version for all of our articles.

By Elaine Weinreb
Press Staff Writer

At a special meeting held on July 6, the Northern Humboldt Union High School District Board of Trustees voted to place a $25.8 million school bond measure on the November ballot.
All four of the board members present voted for the bond. Board member Dana Silvernale was absent.
If passed by the voters, the bonds will be paid for by property owners in McKinleyville, Trinidad, Westhaven, Fieldbrook, Arcata, Blue Lake, Manila, Bayside, and Orick. Renters will pay the tax indirectly, as most landlords will probably pass the increased costs onto their tenants.
To pass, the bond must be approved by 55 percent of voters on Nov. 2.
The exact amount that property owners will pay has not yet been determined, but district officials estimate that it will cost $30 per year for each $100,000 of assessed property value. So a person with a house with assessed value of $200,000 would pay an additional $60 in taxes each year.
Bond proceeds cannot be used for the district’s most pressing needs – teacher’s salaries and operating funds.
Just what voters will be getting from the bond is still uncertain.
Three different project lists were given to the public at the meeting. The lists were not consistent with each other, and only one of them contained any financial information.
The vaguest of the three project lists was the one which voters will see on the sample ballot. Although it emphasizes items such as replacing inadequate wiring and outdated windows, it does not mention the two most expensive and controversial projects – a new Arcata High performing arts center and synthetic field turf for both high schools.
The only one of the three lists which gave cost estimates for most of the proposed projects was the newly created “Facility Master Plan.”  Here are the projects, listed in order of their cost:
• Astroturf for both high schools – $9 million
• Fine arts facility at Arcata High – $8.2 million
• New library and media centers – Cost not given
• New football bleachers at Mack High – $2.6 million
• Computer upgrades (8 locations) –  $1.3 million
• Solar panels for both high schools – $900,000
• Moving the Community Day School – $878,000
• New gym restrooms at both high schools – $700,000
• Track at Arcata High – $490,000
• Replacing clock/bell systems at both high schools  – $150,000
• Unspecified “monitoring devices” at both schools – $80,000
• Upgrading electrical wiring at Arcata High – $61,500
• Total (not including new library & media centers) – $24.5 million
• Paying off old debt – $ 1.3 million
• Grand total – $25.8 million
Arcata High will be getting the lion’s share of the money, with $15.5 million earmarked for that school.
McKinleyville High will receive $7 million.
The remaining money will go to the other facilities run by NHUHSD. Those are the Six Rivers Charter School, two continuation high schools, the Community Day School, the Adult Education School (which may be closed down altogether), and the district office.
When the costs of the new libraries and the payment to the bond salesmen are added in, the cost of the projects will exceed the amount of money that will be derived from the bond.
At last week’s meeting, 11 members of the public gave their opinions about the bond measure.         Seven were either Arcata residents, teachers at Arcata High, or parents of children who had attended Arcata High. The Arcata contingent was highly enthusiastic about the bond.
Four McKinleyville residents were critical of the bond.
Carol Newman wanted to see more specific financial information. Penny Elsebusch was concerned about the financial impact upon seniors, and noted that many of the items would be obsolete long before they were paid for.
Dave Elsebusch believed that the items on the project list were not critical needs, and Jeffrey Lytle thought it was inappropriate to try to pass bonds during a time of financial crisis.
Bond salesman Greg Isom attended the meeting to answer questions asked by the board.  He said that most other communities had passed school bonds when they appeared on the ballot.
All four of the board members present said that they wanted the question to be decided by the community, and therefore voted to put the measure on the ballot.

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