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School Considers Bond Extension
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Informational meetings are in progress regarding the extension of a school bond for the Escalon Unified School District, a plan that would allow for some modernization work on all district campuses.

Already held have been meetings at Escalon High School and Van Allen Elementary, with four more sessions still on the schedule. Informational meetings are planned tonight, Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 5 p.m. at El Portal Middle School and 6:30 p.m. at Dent Elementary; Thursday meetings, Sept. 22, will be at 5 pm. at Farmington Elementary and 6:30 p.m. at Collegeville Elementary.

The financial group Caldwell Flores Winters, Inc. out of Emeryville is putting on the presentations, with school officials also on hand to take questions. With a Northern California office in Emeryville and a Southern California location at Cardiff-By-The-Sea, the financial firm has been working with school districts in areas ranging from technology integration to facilities planning to bond election services for 25 years.

"We are examining the possibility of a bond extension," said Escalon Unified School District Superintendent Ron Costa. "It would be putting a bond (extension) on the ballot in 2012 and that would allow us to get matching funds from the state to modernize some of our facilities that are 50-plus years old."

If the school board decides to put the bond issue on the ballot, it would be to extend the bond currently in place that was used several years ago for construction of the Escalon High School Performing Arts Center, Library-Media Center and cafeteria, and the music rooms and gymnasium at El Portal.

The projected cost of the bond is $13 million and basically, said Costa, it would extend the payment taxpayers are currently making.

"The extension would have you continue paying the amount you're paying, just for a longer period," Costa explained.

The current payment is in "the low 30s" per $1,000 of assessed value, noted Costa.

Having the bond issue in place would also allow the school district to obtain state matching funds for future projects.

"It would qualify us for several million in state funding," Costa added.

With the state's fiscal woes, though, the availability of that money is uncertain. It is dedicated money and Costa said projects are funded only when the money "is in the pot."

Statewide bond issues are often placed on the ballot to help provide that pot of money, he said.

"History shows, when one (bond) gets used up, another one gets put on the ballot," Costa said.

Representatives of the financial services firm were slated to make a presentation to the board at their Tuesday night meeting on Sept. 20, after the Times went to press, to lay out the proposed bond extension plan.

"It'll be up to the board whether or not we move forward with this," Costa noted.

An informal survey of district voters conducted recently to gauge support showed that it appears to be out there.

"It looks like, at about two to one, people are saying yes, the buildings need to be modernized," Costa said.

Whether that will translate into support for extending an existing assessment for a new bond remains to be seen.

"It's a long process," Costa agreed. "If we do want to move forward, we would form a bond committee of citizens, parents, community members to work on this."

The earliest Costa anticipates a bond measure could get on the ballot would be in June 2012.

Caldwell Flores Winters, Inc. would seemingly be involved throughout the process.

"Give us the resources and a handful of dedicated volunteers and we will deliver a win on Election Day," reads a statement on the firm's website. "We use extensive data analysis and professional and volunteer resources to identify your supporters and educate voters about your measure."V