By Allison Jarrell
The Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees further refined its strategy for pursuing an $889 million general obligation bond at the board’s July 13 meeting, with the majority of trustees voting to create a district wide School Facilities Improvement District (SFID) that excludes Rancho Mission Viejo. The board voted 6-1, with Trustee Jim Reardon dissenting, to approve a resolution of intent to form the SFID. If approved by voters in November, all residents within that SFID will be taxed a maximum of $43 per $100,000 of assessed value of their homes.
The board also voted on July 13 to table a second resolution calling for an SFID exclusively for the Rancho Mission Viejo area, with trustees saying that the district’s current needs should be their focus before funding future needs of new schools. That means the only school currently excluded from the approved districtwide SFID would be Esencia Elementary School, planned in Rancho Mission Viejo with a fall 2018 opening.
Over the last several months, the board has discussed placing an $889 million bond measure on the Nov. 8 general election ballot, which would be used to leverage state funds and pay for more than $800 million of deferred maintenance of district facilities.
In Dana Point, that includes potential improvements for elementary schools and an estimated $72.8 million in enhancements for Dana Hills High School alone, which is 43 years old. DHHS projects currently listed in the district’s Facilities Master Plan include a new performing arts center, new classroom building, new parking, a remodel/expansion of student services, multipurpose room remodel/expansion, swimming pool modernization, a new library media center, ADA accessible stadium bleachers and a new auxiliary physical education facility.
Trustees have debated back and forth over whether to pursue smaller regional bonds, a districtwide bond or an SFID with areas carved out, such as Rancho Mission Viejo. Some trustees have noted that after speaking with constituents, they felt a single bond was the clearer, more transparent choice versus potentially confusing residents with six SFIDs.
Other trustees have argued that smaller regional bonds would appeal to residents who don’t feel connected to the needs of other communities and schools, and would allow a city to vote no on its own bond without limiting other cities’ access to funds. Some residents at recent board meetings have said they wouldn’t support the bond measure due to issues such as ongoing over-taxation, mismanagement of Mello-Roos funds and lack of transparency. Others have said they want the opportunity to vote on funding future improvements at their children’s schools.
Carolyn Cavecche, President and CEO of the Orange County Taxpayers Association, addressed the board at its July 20 meeting, saying that the district’s bond measure meets most of the association’s criteria, with the exception of a specific list of projects the board is committed to using the bond’s revenue on. Several trustees voiced concerns over the lack of a detailed project list, while Trustees Amy Hanacek and Lynn Hatton-Hodson said they felt that it’s acceptable to finalize possible projects after the bond is passed, noting that the election in November may also shift the priorities of the board.
The deadline for placing a bond measure on the November ballot is Aug. 12, and the board is scheduled to vote on the measure at its regularly scheduled Aug. 10 meeting. Two-thirds of the board—five trustees—must approve the measure.
The Aug. 10 board meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the district’s headquarters, located at 33122 Valle Road in San Juan Capistrano. The meeting’s agenda will be posted ahead of time at www.capousd.ca.schoolloop.com under the “Board of Trustees” tab.
To see a complete list of proposed district projects that could be funded by a bond, visit www.capousd.ca.schoolloop.com and click “Proposed Projects by School Site” at the very bottom right of the screen.