Measure B $47 million school bond passage looks losing razor-thin race | TheUnion.com

Measure B $47 million school bond passage looks losing razor-thin race

Stephen Roberson
Staff Writer

Measure B, the $47 million bond designed for facility repairs and upgrades at Nevada Joint Union High School District schools, was failing by a razor-thin margin in a race too close to call at press time.

The last available results had 54.18 percent of voters approving the measure, which needs 55 percent to pass.

The bond, which would be paid out in four installments over the next six years, would cost taxpayers $19.98 per $100,000 of assessed valuation, an average of $57 per year per household.

"Let me tell you, I know exactly what's going to happen," Nevada Joint Union High School District Superintendent Louise Bennicoff Johnson said. "We're all going to work and we're all going to go to school like we always do and we're going to do what's best for the kids. You can count on that."

If it passes?

"We have to get to work immediately," Johnson said.

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Early steps will be to put a Community Oversight Committee in place, develop a request for proposal for professional services, and have all the information in place by March to start attracting the most competitive bids to do the necessary health and safety projects over the summer.

If it fails?

"We regroup and we look at all of our options and we figure out where we want to go next," Johnson said.

The Facilities Improvement Plan can be found on the district's website. It's on the right side of the page in the rotating news feed. The plan outlines all prospective projects with estimates and indicates which have a high, medium or low priority. The high priority projects will be funded first.

Proponents argued funding from Measure B will: ensure school drinking water continues to be safe; repair leaky roofs; update facilities for career and technical education programs; attract and retain quality teachers; replace deteriorating sewer and gas lines; provide the space and technology for 21st century learning in areas like agriculture, computer technology, engineering and digital media; upgrade fire safety and improve accessibility for disabled students; and keep schools clean and safe.

A Citizens' Oversight Committee will be required to meet quarterly – at a minimum – to review all expenditures. The committee will consist of at least seven volunteers from the business community, a senior citizen organization, a bona fide taxpayer group and parents of district students. Contracted vendors and district employees may not serve on the committee, which by law must be in place within 60 days.

An independent audit, aimed at making sure spending is within the framework of both the law and voter-approved language, will be conducted annually. The audit will be distributed to the oversight committee, which will share the results with the district's board of trustees.

All reports and audits will be posted on the district's website.

Opponents of the bond argued declining enrollment makes the repairs unnecessary and may force the district to shut down Bear River High School in the foreseeable future.

Johnson has said, because of geography, closing Bear River is not an option.

Wade Freedle, who authored the opposition to Measure B, said the bond proposal was asking too much of voters in an area that has suffered from declining enrollment. He didn't know what to think late Tuesday night.

"I don't think I'll have a 100 percent reaction until the final vote is in," he said. "We ran this campaign because we thought this was a bad policy decision. It's not because we have any ill will toward the administration or board over the management of the schools. We believe this issue won't be resolved one way or another with this election. The issue of declining enrollment will continue to affect the school system financially and curriculum-wise."

None of the Measure B bond money can go toward administrator salaries or pensions. All funds will stay local. The district will be eligible for matching state funds, a well that is dry right now. Local contractors will have priority on projects. However, since there's not a prominent union presence in Grass Valley, local contractors will have a difficult time securing large jobs.

To contact Staff Writer Stephen Roberson, email sroberson@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

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