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Santa Clarita Schools Seek Stiff Fees on New Housing

Times Staff Writer

Ballot propositions imposing special fees averaging $7,200 on each new residential unit to help finance new schools in the fast-growing Santa Clarita Valley have been proposed by five area school districts.

Trustees of the Castaic, Newhall, Sulphur Springs and Saugus elementary school districts and the William S. Hart Union High School District gave tentative approval last week to Nov. 4 ballot measures on the special tax. They are expected to adopt final wording on resolutions calling for the measures after public hearings next week.

The ballot measures would require approval of two-thirds of the voters in each district to be enacted.

Within the last two years, the school districts have experienced unprecedented enrollment growth because of residential construction in the area. Since 1970, the Santa Clarita Valley’s population has more than doubled, to 103,000.

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More than 30,000 proposed new residential units are in various stages of the permit process. If all are built, the area will need at least four new elementary schools and another high school by 1991 to accommodate a school population that is expected to double within two decades, Hart Supt. Clyde Smyth said.

‘We Have to Find Ways’

“We absolutely have to house our students,” he said. “We have to find ways.”

Essentially, the districts will be asking voters if developers and incoming homeowners should pay the cost of building the schools that will be required, said Arnie Glassberg, business manager of the Sulphur Springs district. School officials decided against asking voters to approve use of general-obligation bonds--meaning all taxpayers would share the cost--because, he said, “The people living here now already are paying for schools. We don’t think it is fair to ask them to pay for more.”

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On the other hand, Gloria Casvin, a vice president of the Valencia Corp., said she does not believe it is fair for residents to impose a tax on people who don’t even live in the area yet. The Valencia Corp., an arm of the Newhall Land and Farming Co., is one of the most active builders of housing in the area.

Casvin predicted that developers will pass the fee, if it is imposed, on to home buyers, raising the cost of residential units.

Each voter will be asked to approve two fees--one of $3,000 for the high school district and amounts ranging from $2,000 to $4,500 for the elementary school district in which they live. Casvin said the average fee per unit, when the two are added, would be $7,200.

“We’re willing to work with the school districts,” Casvin said. “But we think that the primary responsibility for financing schools lies with the state.”

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Smyth said he does not believe “we’ll ever see the day the state will cover the whole cost of construction. There will be some local contribution.”

‘Long-Range Problem’

“We’re looking at the long-range problem,” he said. “If I need a school built by 1991, I’d like to have it built by 1990.”

‘We believe new development should pay their fair share,” said Reed Montgomery, superintendent of the Castaic district.

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Glassberg said the fee would be imposed upon developers at the permit stage and would be adjusted up or down each year to reflect changes in the economy, as measured by the consumer price index.

The amount of the fees in the four elementary school districts varies according to their needs, Glassberg said. Sulphur Springs is proposing a $2,000 per unit fee; Newhall, $4,300; Castaic, $4,500, and Saugus, $4,500.

Public hearings will be held at 8 p.m. Tuesday by the Saugus district, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday by Sulphur Springs and at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday by the Hart, Newhall and Castaic districts.


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