Facility Needs at Penn Valley Schools and Measure J
In the process of bringing together the former Pleasant Valley and Ready Springs districts, Penn Valley Union Elementary School District has been planning for our future and evaluating facilities needs at our campuses, which ultimately led to the decision to close Pleasant Valley School in 2016.
More recently, these efforts have also included commissioning a complete Needs Assessment Report about the state of classrooms and other facilities at our two remaining schools.
Ready Springs was originally built in 1957 and went through some modernization in 1999 and 2008. Williams Ranch was built in 1991 and has had maintenance completed, but no modernization.
At this point, both schools have many classrooms and other aging buildings in need of significant repairs and upgrades. Total costs to maintain and upgrade any school can be many millions of dollars. The current cost of all our needs is estimated to be approximately $35 million.
To address our facility needs, PVUESD is seeking various potential funding sources (the State, our own operating budget, the proceeds from the sale of Pleasant Valley School, philanthropy, etc.) to pay for some of these improvements. However, even if we received all available resources (some of which require a local ‘match’), we would still be facing millions of dollars of needs. So, since the beginning of 2019, we have been sharing our needs and priorities with the broader community, seeking feedback about what projects are most important and the options we have to address them.
With all of your input, considerable discussion and careful deliberation, the Board of Trustees unanimously decided to make a request for local funding, placing Measure J, a General Obligation (GO) bond, on the March 3, 2020 ballot. Neither PVUESD nor either of the preceding districts has done so for many decades.
What is Measure J?
Measure J is a $16 million GO bond measure which could provide funds to:
— Repair aging classrooms, restrooms, roofs, siding, dry-rot, and drinking water lines
— Repair and replace old infrastructure, including electrical, water and sewer systems
— Improve student health, safety and security
— Provide safe classrooms that are specially constructed to meet the needs of each student
— Ensure all bond funds are spent locally on Williams Ranch and Ready Springs schools
— Require a citizens’ oversight committee, independent annual financial and performance audits, public reports of how bond funds are spent, and a responsible repayment plan.
Specific projects are included in the project list that will be a part of every voter’s informational materials. Additionally, more detailed information about Measure J and all of PVUESD’s efforts to improve classrooms and other facilities throughout the District is available on the District’s website: pvuesd.org/community/district-go-bond.
What are GO bonds?
GO bonds are a form of local funding that have paid for a significant portion of school construction projects in Nevada County and throughout the State. The source of repayment for GO bonds is an ad valorem tax on all taxable property – residential, commercial, agricultural, and industrial – located within school district boundaries. They also can help communities qualify for matching funds.
What would Measure J cost me?
The projected annual tax rate will be $28.65 per $100,000 of taxable value. Taxable values are typically lower than market value, due to Proposition 13 limits.
How long would we have to pay that amount?
Similar to a mortgage, Measure J would be repaid over approximately 30 years.
How much will the total repayment cost be?
The total estimated cost of Measure J is projected to be approximately $29 million, including principal and interest. This repayment ratio of 1.81 to 1 (or $1.81 to repay every dollar borrowed) is similar to a typical home mortgage – though the specific amount will be determined based on many factors (tax rate, market conditions, etc.). In addition, Measure J sets a maximum total repayment ratio to no more than 2.5 to 1 – much less than the 4 to 1 allowed by law – in order to ensure taxpayer dollars are not wasted on excessive interest expense.
How can we make sure Measure J is responsible?
Measure J includes binding rules, restraints and commitments within the ballot measure itself, like the maximum repayment ratio. Most important, specific priorities have been determined based on District needs and community input. These priorities make up our project list and will determine how we spend your investment. An independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee is required and will be established to ensure compliance and accountability with this commitment.
What about limits on interest rates?
Measure J sets a limit on interest rates at 8%. However, actual interest rates will be a reflection of the market when bonds are sold and are expected to be lower.
Are there additional safeguards for taxpayers?
State law requires both the independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee and annual independent audits to ensure GO bond proceeds are only spent on voter-approved projects at Ready Springs and Williams Ranch schools, and not used for administration or staff salaries or benefits. In addition, Measure J prohibits costly capital appreciation bonds also called CABs, which compound interest, costing taxpayers that much more.
Didn’t we pass a bond for school facilities in 2016?
Voters did approve Measure B for Nevada Joint Union High School District in November of 2016. Those funds can only be used to improve their high school facilities. Elementary school districts have not and will not receive any funds from those bonds.
What about all the other money from the State?
Most of our annual operating funding actually comes directly from the District’s share of the Prop. 13 local property taxes, not from Sacramento. While this source of funding will likely be a tremendous asset in the future and help us continue to maintain our campuses, it is not entirely predictable, requiring us to maintain as much of a reserve as possible. Also, our annual revenues are generally sufficient for classroom activities, programs and instruction – but not enough to meet all of our facilities needs as well.
Despite this, the District has made considerable investments in our facilities from our operating budget and reserves (hundreds of thousands of dollars in total) while working to gain as much State facilities funding as possible. Indeed, PVUESD received approximately $1 million from the sale of Pleasant Valley School in June of 2019, and these funds will be allocated for capital improvements, as required by law. We will continue to seek every resource we can identify – but even combined, we will likely still face millions of dollars of facilities needs at Ready Springs and Williams Ranch.
Who can vote on Measure J?
All registered voters within the PVUESD boundaries can vote on Measure J.
What happens if Measure J is not approved?
If Measure J is not approved, we will be left with less than a million dollars to meet our needs. As such, many important improvements to our schools will be further delayed or may not happen at all.
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