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Santa Rosa City Schools officials will turn to voters this fall for help upgrading and modernizing facilities and equipment.

School board members voted unanimously Wednesday night to place on the Nov. 4 ballot two separate bond measures totaling $229 million — one that would cover improvements at the elementary schools and the other at the middle and high schools.

The district hasn’t been able to keep up with maintenance and technology needs because of declining revenues over the past several years, board member Laura Gonzalez said.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t had the money necessary to keep up the schools,” she said before the meeting. “This is an opportunity to make things better.”

She argued it’s important schools get ahead of the curve, particularly with technology. She said many students don’t have access to computers and Internet at home.

It took just minutes for the board to approve putting the bond measures on the ballot.

“As we’re trying to move our students forward, it’s essential that we support the bond,” Board member Larry Haenel said at the meeting. “I’m hopeful that the voters will support this because education is not only an investment in the health and welfare of our students, it’s also an economic investment in our community.”

Parent Gina Huntsinger said she has two daughters enrolled in schools in the district and would like to see more technological improvements to the schools, where wireless and computer access is poor.

“They need to be upgraded so that we can compete in a global economy,” she said. “(Students) definitely need to be able to type and they need to be available to do research online.”

She said her husband, Will Huntsinger, is a Spanish teacher at Maria Carrillo High School and has been using more technology in the classroom. She said he uses a lot of PowerPoint presentations and computer graphics to reach out to students who are more visual learners.

Chief Technology Officer Rick Edson said the bonds would help improve network security and wireless Internet connectivity districtwide.

To pass, the bonds need at least 55 percent of the votes in November.

Santa Rosa has separate districts — one for elementary schools and the other for middle and high schools. Both districts are overseen by the same seven-member board.

Steve Eichman, assistant superintendent of business services, said each of the bonds would not exceed a property-tax rate of $30 per $100,000 of assessed value.

Since 1991, Sonoma County’s largest school district has asked voters to raise property taxes to pay for school improvements four times. All were approved.

Two of the ballot measures focused on middle and high school campuses, while the others were for elementary schools. The last bond issue was in 2002.

District officials said many repairs and upgrades were made to schools and classrooms since the last bond was approved 12 years ago. However, there’s still much work to be done.

The aging schools are in much need of repairs, Eichman said. Roofs are leaking, while plumbing and sewer systems are deteriorating. “Our youngest building is approximately 20 years old,” he said.

School officials outlined priorities in the project lists. They include replacing air conditioning, heating, ventilation and lighting systems with more energy-efficient ones. They hope to replace or repair the electrical system and make classrooms and other facilities more accessible for students with disabilities.

Eichman said no determination has been made on how the money will be spent. However, he warned if some of the repairs and upgrades weren’t made, it could cost the district more down the road to address maintenance issues.

Earlier this year, a poll was conducted to see how voters would respond to the bond measures.

The survey polled 700 likely voters from across both districts between Jan. 30 and Feb. 11. It found at least 70 percent of them would support improving student access to computers and modern technology, as well as upgrading the electrical systems.

School officials said the bonds would not be used to cover administrative salaries or pensions. They call for an independent citizens oversight committee to ensure the tax dollars are spent on facilities projects.

You can reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 521-5458 or eloisa.gonzalez@pressdemocrat.com.