School board OKs $270M bond

A $270-million school bond is in the hands of Glendale residents after school board members on Tuesday voted unanimously to place it on the April 5 ballot.

If approved by voters, the bond would set the stage for a fresh round of capital improvement projects at schools throughout the district.

"This bond is going to allow for so many of the exciting things that we are talking about and ready to put into place," school board member Christine Walters said.

The decision followed months of voter surveys, number crunching and site visits meant to explore the need for the additional funds. If passed, the bond would build on Measure K, a $186-million bond approved in 1997 that financed several major construction projects, including the refurbishment of Clark Magnet High School.

The bond will likely be leveraged to attract millions of additional dollars in the form of state and federal matching grants, board President Greg Krikorian said. 

Repayment of the bond would be phased in around 2017, just as Measure K is paid off, so local property tax rates will remain the same, about $46 per $100,000 of assessed property value through 2050, according to the school district.

Priority projects that could be financed by bond dollars include school safety improvements, technology upgrades and science lab renovations, said Eva Lueck, chief financial officer for the district. 

The money cannot be spent on administrator or teacher salaries, but it would free up $20 million in other funds, allowing the district to keep class sizes from increasing significantly. If passed, the first $54 million could be available to the district as early as September, Lueck said.

The bond has received widespread support from administrators, teachers and community members, many of whom were at the meeting on Tuesday for the vote. Carolyn Williams, a first-grade teacher at Keppel Elementary, said the bungalow that serves as her classroom is in terrible condition. 

"It is our hope that we will be able to improve our schools and keep our class sizes down," Williams said. "The upgrades would enhance the learning environment for all of our students."

College View School did not receive any of the Measure K funding, teacher Mary Garripoli said. She said the flooring in her classroom is uneven, causing teachers and students to trip, and there are just two electrical sockets and no door.

"My students need and deserve to work in a safe and modern environment," Garripoli said.

Tami Carlson, president of the Glendale Teachers Assn., raised some concerns about how the bond revenue would be spent.

The union, which locked horns with the school board earlier this year over spending cuts, has not taken an official position on the bond because officials haven't put in writing their commitment to use the freed-up $20 million strictly for the improvement of classroom instruction, Carlson said.

"I personally would not want to ask the homeowners of Glendale to pay an increase in taxes during an economic downturn if it is not going to be directly for students in the classroom," Calson said.

There are also teachers within the district who are unhappy with how Measure K dollars were used, Carlson said.

But school board members described Measure K as a success that benefited not only the district, but the entire community, and officials have stressed that tax rates would barely change. 

And the ongoing state budget crisis poses a real threat to the quality of programming the district can offer, they said.

"Our kids get one shot at third grade; they get one shot at being in high school," board member Mary Boger said. "And if we are going to protect them and keep them safe … then we will support this bond."


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