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Bond Issue for Schools Inevitable, Officials Say

Times Staff Writer

A bond election to raise money for new schools in the Santa Clarita Valley appears inevitable, trustees from the valley’s five school districts said Thursday night.

The principal questions remaining, the trustees said, are when to hold a bond election and how to make it palatable to voters.

“You’re going to have to do this sooner or later,” Alex Bowie, an attorney for the districts, told the trustees at a meeting also attended by administrators and parents from the William S. Hart, Newhall, Castaic, Saugus and Sulphur Springs districts.

Bowie said that the school districts will have to find a way to answer a basic taxpayer question: “What’s it going to cost me?”

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The trustees appointed a committee to study placing a bond measure on an upcoming ballot, perhaps as early as November. The committee was told to explore other funding sources, but district superintendents have said bonds are the only feasible way to fund the needed school construction.

In the Santa Clarita Valley, the fastest-growing area of the county, school district officials say at least 13 new schools will be needed by the year 2000.

The meeting was called by Hart trustees last month after the state Supreme Court let stand a Court of Appeal ruling that voided a special voter-approved tax on new development to build schools.

On Monday, the school districts suffered another setback when a Los Angeles Superior Court judge dismissed two lawsuits filed by the districts to halt development until sufficient schools are built.

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The districts have two types of bond issues to consider. Property owners would pay off one type based on a percentage of assessed property value. Another would be paid off according to a set fee assessed to property owners. Either type would require approval of two-thirds of the valley’s voters.

Moreover, the districts must decide whether it would be wiser politically to promote individual bond measures or to join forces and support one. The districts have not determined how much money they would try to raise through bonds.

Complicating the matter is the likely appearance of another bond measure--for roads--on the November ballot. That measure could add from $75 to $200 to annual property tax bills. Senior citizens would be exempt.

Trustees said they fear that voters will not want to tax themselves twice.

Regardless of how the school districts pursue a bond measure, they will have to coordinate their efforts with the proponents of the measure to build roads, said Sandie Loberg, president of the Board of Trustees of the Hart district.

Connie Worden, a proponent of the road bonds proposal, agreed. “While roads are important to this valley, so are schools,” she said. “One should not take away from the other.”

The Santa Clarita City Council already has agreed to put the transportation measure before the voters in November. But the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors must also agree to place the measure on the ballot, since it would affect unincorporated areas.


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