MUSD Board approves bond ballot initiative
On Thursday, January 25, Mammoth Unified School District (MUSD)’s Board voted unanimously to authorize a school bond election to be held in conjunction with the next statewide primary election on June 5, 2018.
The election will determine whether the district issues $63.1 million in bond debt for repairs and upgrades to its three schools: Mammoth Elementary, Mammoth Middle, and Mammoth High. In order to pass, the bond measure will have to earn the support of 55 percent of votes cast by district residents.
The Board had previously approved a contract for Bond Counsel services with the firm Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, LLP, at its November 16, 2017 meeting. Orrick crafted the resolution passed Thursday, which estimates that MUSD will need to raise an average of $3.7 million annually for 33 years to repay the proposed debt. Those proceeds will be raised through an annual parcel tax, the rate of which will depend on assessed property values within the District boundary. The resolution estimated a maximum tax of $60 per $100,000 of assessed value.
When asked if better funding in years past could have prevented the school buildings from falling into disrepair, MUSD Chief Business and Financial Officer Brooke Bien said these repairs were inevitable. “If we had more money, would we be in better shape? Yes. Would everything be done? No.”
When asked if the District could have avoided asking the community to take on debt by putting a new parcel tax on the ballot, specifically for facilities improvement, Bien said that it was unlikely a parcel tax alone could raise enough to fund the proposed improvements and repairs. Major repairs need to be implemented now, said Bien. “If we go for this now, we don’t have to tear our facilities down,” said Bien on Wednesday, January 31.
Bien said MUSD began to experience a decline in property tax revenue due to property value decreases in 2010. As a result, the district cut funding to its maintenance facilities.
“When times get tough…you always want to cut funds furthest from the kids and classrooms first,” said Bien. “[After the recession in 2008], many schools across the State cut repair funds to maintain class sizes and cover classroom and teacher costs.”
In California, school districts receive funding from a mix of local property taxes and state funds. Each school receives a minimum amount of funding per student, with a graduated scale that allocates more funding for students in upper grades.
If a district is unable to meet that minimum funding level per student using local property taxes, it receives supplementary funds from the State until that minimum funding level is met. Those districts, called Revenue Limit districts, are also eligible for additional State funding if 55 percent or more of the students they serve are English learners, students with disabilities, or students on free and reduced meal plans.
However, if a district meets the State’s minimum funding level per student with local property tax revenue, it does not receive funding from the State, even if it serves a disproportionate number of students who require additional resources. These districts are called Basic Aid districts, and most earn enough in property taxes annually that they make up for lost funding from the State through excess local revenue.