Atwater residents will decide on Nov. 6 whether they are willing to pay an extra $30 per $100,000 of their property’s assessed valuation to help build a new school.
If at least 55 percent of voters vote “yes” on Measure E, the Atwater Elementary School District will be allowed to issue $20 million in bonds to help construct a new school that officials say would alleviate overcrowding. And if funds are left, it would help improve existing classrooms, restrooms, plumbing, HVAC, electrical and safety and security systems, according to the ballot question.
The tax increase would raise an approximate $1.4 million each year for 30 years starting the 2019-2020 fiscal year to repay the bonds. The bond question also notes that the funds would be looked after by a citizens’ oversight body, and none would go toward administrators’ salaries or administrative and operating expenses, according to an analysis by Merced County Counsel.
The majority of the funds would go toward constructing a new school, which could either by a K-6 or K-8 institution, school officials said.
The school district would plan to use funds from a successful bond measure to apply for matching state funds for the construction of a new school, which could cost about $30 million, according to Superintendent Sandra Schiber.
“All the schools in the district are over the capacity they were built for,” said Schiber, explaining the district’s overcrowded schools are leading to double the number of lunch periods, frustration with parking on school campuses, diminished space for play areas and a higher student-to-teacher ratio.
While the state has recommended a healthy class size reduction to 24 students per teacher, there aren’t enough classrooms to accomplish that, Schiber said.
“It creates hardships on a daily basis to run the school because of space,” Schiber said.
That’s why the AESD School Board wants to build a new school, she said. If approved, the school district would like to build the school “as soon as we can,” which could mean within two years, Schiber said.
The district has supported a bond measure asked by the AESD in the past, Schiber said. In the early 2000s, the school district secured $11 million to build gyms at Bellevue Elementary and Mitchell Senior School.
A letter of support on Measure E has been filed with the Merced County Elections Office, signed by resident Roger Wood, realtor Andy Krotik, retail executive Alice Gilbertson, farmer Glenn H. Arnold and Merced County Supervisor Daron McDaniel. There were no letters against the measure, according to the elections office.