Measure ‘E’ will be on the ballot in the Escalon Unified School District for the Tuesday, Nov. 6 election, a $25 million general obligation bond for school improvements.
District Superintendent Ron Costa said if approved, the bond measure funds will be used for classroom improvements at a number of sites, enhancing school safety and security for students and for construction of new athletic facilities at the high school, including an all-weather track and a relocated football stadium.
While there haven’t been any formal information sessions scheduled to discuss the bond, committee members working for passage of the proposal have been at some athletic events and other gatherings with basic information.
There have also been some concerns voiced by residents, citing the actual $50 million final cost of the bond once the funds are repaid and the impact that will have on the largest landowners in the district.
The tax rate for the bond is projected to be $30 per $100,000 of assessed value per year. A home valued at $200,000 would be assessed annual property taxes of roughly $60 per year to help pay for the bond. Farmers and ranchers with large operations in the district would pay considerably more.
Another concern voiced was that of seeking student volunteers to walk the district prior to elections to encourage support of the measure.
Costa said that is something that has been done in the past and is strictly on a volunteer basis.
“Coaches ask kids if they want to get involved, they are not forced,” Costa said.
The relocation of the football stadium has been called into question as well, though Costa said moving it closer to Escalon-Bellota Road, as proposed, will help the district meet stringent ADA requirements and allow for a re-working of other athletic fields for a better flow on the campus as well.
The bond is designed to upgrade the facilities in many areas, Costa added.
“Modernizing classrooms, improving access to technology, improving the athletic facilities and the playing fields, not only for school use, but that’s for the community as well,” he said.
An independent bond oversight committee would oversee the measure, looking at expenditures, the financial audit and making sure the bond money is being spent wisely and properly.
“This does not go to operations, this does not go to salaries,” Costa said.
If the bond passes, the tax rate would be close to $70 per $100,000 of assessed value, up from its current $38.90 but would still be below the average of $80.81 for unified school districts in San Joaquin County.
“This is our third bond in 18 years,” Costa admitted, “but we went 30 years without a bond before that.”
Now, he said, the district is looking to bring all sites into the modern era and provide the best learning and teaching environment possible for students and staff.
“We have 60-year-old classrooms,” he said. “We have to modernize; we have to bring our classrooms up to 21st century standards.”
And while some have questioned the lack of firm numbers as to how many classrooms will be modernized and how long the work will take, Costa said the issue there is never knowing “what you will find” when you start renovating the old buildings. He also said the district needs to get the bond approved before seeking architectural drawings because of the cost associated with them.
All registered voters within the boundaries of the Escalon Unified School District are eligible to vote on the bond measure in the Nov. 6 election.
Information sent home with students about the measure also provided the school district phone number in case of questions; Costa said those with concerns can contact the office at 209-838-3591.