Proposition 51 on the Nov. 8 ballot would raise $9 billion for school construction and renovation projects throughout the state, and voters in five Sonoma County school districts are positioned to qualify for a share of the money.
For qualifying projects, the state pays half the cost of building new schools and 60 percent for modernizing schools more than 25 years old.
State funding could significantly stretch local dollars if voters approve school bond measures in the Cotati-Rohnert Park, Guerneville, Healdsburg, Sonoma Valley and Windsor school districts.
Many schools are showing signs of age. Roofs are leaking, plumbing is deteriorating and wiring isn’t adequate for classroom technology needs in the information age.
Just as homeowners often take a second mortgage for a new roof or a remodel, school districts typically seek authority to borrow to address costly upgrades. California voters have proven generous, approving about 80 percent of school bond proposals since 2001.
Six local districts have bond measures on the Nov. 8 ballot:
Measure C is an $80 million bond act in the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District to pay for construction, repair and replacement of facilities, including multiuse rooms for arts, science and vocational education. It would be repaid through property tax assessments, estimated at $49 per $100,000 in assessed value. Property owners in the district are paying off two past bond measures, including an $80 million bond approved in 2014.
Measure D is a $67 million bond act in the Healdsburg Unified School District to repair roofs, upgrade plumbing and heating systems and improve classrooms and physical education facilities. The estimated cost is $45 per $100,000 of assessed property value. The district has three outstanding bonds, including a $35 million bond approved in 2012.
Measure E is a $120 million bond act in the Sonoma Valley Unified School District to upgrade science labs, classrooms and school facilities. The estimated cost is $42.50 per $100,000 in assessed value. The district has two outstanding bonds, the most recent approved in 2010.
Measure F is a $62 million bond act in the Windsor Unified School District to upgrade facilities, including libraries and science labs, and for a new elementary school. The estimated cost is $49 per $100,000 of assessed value. The district has two outstanding bonds, the most recent approved in 2008.
Measure G is a $7 million bond in the Guerneville Elementary School District to modernize classrooms and playgrounds, upgrade technology and improve water and energy conservation. The estimated cost is $30 per $100,000 of assessed value. The district has one outstanding bond, a $6 million measure approved in 2012.
The only organized opposition is in the Cotati-Rohnert Park District, with opponents citing the cost of borrowing and relatively flat enrollment.
Bond acts tend to be written broadly, making it difficult to determine just how the money will be spent. By law, it can only be used for capital projects, such as repairing and upgrading buildings — a wise and necessary investment in public education. The Press Democrat recommends yes votes for Measures C, D, E, F and G.
There also are two parcel taxes on the Nov. 8 ballot. Measure H is a 12-year renewal of a $96-a-year tax that funds art, music and science programs in the Rincon Valley School District. Measure I would impose a $75 tax in the Wilmar School District for nine years for music, books, counselors and teachers. These are direct investments in quality education, and The Press Democrat recommends a yes vote on Measure H and I.