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Six Sonoma County school districts look to voters for money boost

Six Sonoma County school districts are turning to voters in November to prop up their flagging budgets with general obligation bonds and parcel taxes.

Three districts -- West Sonoma County, Fort Ross and Sebastopol -- are asking for parcel taxes, a move that requires two-thirds voter approval for passage but which gives districts more flexibility in how the revenues are used.

The other three -- Gravenstein, Roseland and Wilmar -- are pursuing general obligation bonds from which revenues are limited to brick-and-mortar projects and cannot be used to pay for teacher or administrator salaries. Passage requires approval by 55 percent of voters within each district. Bonds are repaid through higher property taxes.

"We have painted when we needed to, we have patched when we needed to, but there has never been any money for the big fix," said Eric Hoppes, principal of Wilson School and superintendent of Wilmar School District, which is asking for $4 million in bonds.

The district has eyed window replacement and water and sewer pipe replacement as priority projects.

"The state budget has been cut so much that the only thing we are doing is providing a great education for kids. We don't have the funds to do other things, so you watch the buildings fall into disrepair," he said.

Roseland School District is asking for a $7 million bond, and Gravenstein is asking for $6 million.

West Sonoma County High School is asking for the renewal of an existing $26 per parcel tax passed in 2005 to be extended for eight years and increased to $48 per parcel per year.

Fort Ross is asking for $48 per parcel per year for eight years, and Sebastopol, like West Sonoma County, is asking for its $26 per parcel tax passed in 2005 to be extended for eight years and increased to $48 per parcel annually.

Of the six proposals on the Nov. 6 ballot, only Gravenstein's bond measure earned the endorsement of the Sonoma County Taxpayers Association. Of the 17 local measures on the November ballot in Sonoma County, the 400-member group is opposed to five, backing four and taking no position on eight, Executive Director Dan Drummond said.


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