Tax cuts might be the talk of state and national politicians, but local school board members are asking residents to approve a bond measure in June as the district struggles to make ends meet.
The money is needed for earthquake repairs not covered by emergency aid and to upgrade older facilities that have not been properly maintained for years, said William S. Hart Union High School District board members as they unanimously approved the ballot measure at their Wednesday night meeting. Part of the money may also be used for projects such as new science and computer labs.
"I think if we don't do it we're really saying no to the students," Trustee Paula Olivares said.
"We need to repair the damaged buildings and we need to strengthen our buildings for the future."
Voters in the Hart district will be asked June 6 to modify a bond passed in 1974 that is in effect through the 2000-01 school year.
The new projects would be added to a list of items eligible for bond funding, and taxes on the bond would be increased to pay for the new facilities.
The taxes would be based upon the assessed value of all property within the Hart district, which serves the entire Santa Clarita Valley.
Currently, a property owner with a home assessed at $150,000 is paying $4.35 a year to cover the bonds passed 20 years ago, said William Maddigan, director of business and fiscal services for the district.
Hart officials are still working out details of the bond proposal, but want the average homeowner to pay between $50 and $60 a year under the proposal. Officials believe the average home is valued between $125,000 to $150,000 but are still studying real estate values in the Santa Clarita Valley.
If the bond proposal fails, the district will have to forgo several repair or improvement projects.
There would not be enough in the district's building fund, for instance, to repair Hart High School's earthquake-damaged gym or to replace aging air-conditioning units in several 30-year-old schools.
The only alternative would be to use the district's general fund to buy the air conditioners, he said. But the general fund may not have money to spare. Hart officials have said they are already considering layoffs and possibly closing school facilities to curtail spending, which if left unchecked could drain the fund by the end of the 1995-96 school year.
Numerous other minor projects, such as seismic reinforcements and touch-up projects from the earthquake, would also be left undone, Supt. Daniel M. Hanigan added.
"If classrooms have two walls damaged and we repair and repaint those (with emergency funds), we would like to paint the other two walls at same time," he said.
The district needs only a simple majority to pass the measure since it modifies an existing bond. New bonds have required a two-thirds majority approval since Proposition 13 passed in 1978.
District officials said they are optimistic about getting the needed votes since a district survey of 400 local voters in December indicates they favor the bond modification by a 62%-to-30% margin. But the survey indicates that the district will have to explain--clearly and explicitly--how the money would be used in order to combat the current anti-tax mood of many voters.
"The pockets are getting very thin out there," board President John Hassel said. "We must at all costs tell the public what they are buying for their children."
The results of bond elections in three of the Santa Clarita Valley elementary school districts have been mixed in recent years.
A $20-million bond for two new schools was approved in March, 1993, by 78% of the voters in the Castaic Union School District. A $10.2-million bond was also approved by voters in the Saugus Union School District in June of that year.
Two attempts to pass a $20-million bond in the Newhall School District, however, failed in 1991. A majority of voters supported each bond, but not the necessary two-thirds.