Monday, November 9, 2009

Possible new bond for schools...why?

The Mountain View/Los Altos Union High School District is considering a new bond of $45 million to pay for improvements and expansion of the two high schools - Los Altos High School and Mountain View High School. The district has a continuation school for troubled students that isn't included in the list of improvements.

The story is on the Los Altos Town Crier. website.

The gist of the story is that the district expects to see 900 more students over the next 10 years, an increase of 25% from now. They also want to improve energy efficiency. I have two questions; why is this not done via a parcel tax and why does the construction cost so much?

Let's do the math of building new classrooms. Assume the average classroom is about 1000 sq. ft., holds 25 students, and you'll need 36 classrooms to hold all the new students (a total of 36,000 sq.ft.). The average cost to build a commercial building is about $200 per sq. ft. (click here for details). That means the cost to build those classrooms should be about $7.2M. So why are they asking for $45M? I understand the cost of financing has to be factored into the payments, etc but it seems to me that the district could do a better job of investing taxpayer money.

Now, to the issue of going the parcel tax route versus a bond. The Los Altos School District (which administers elementary and middle schools) has a $597 per parcel tax they use to fund provide basic education, add or improve programs, buildings. The district gets about $7M per year - enough to cover building the HS District classrooms! So, my thought is this, why not have the high school district create an ongoing parcel tax and manage this as a slow growth project instead of all at once. Could we save money in the end?

I think the district should rethink how they're raising and spending this money. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Or they could learn to live within their means. Isn't MVLA among the top funded districts in the state on a per student basis? Why is it not possible to cover operating expenses and accrue capital reserves for future facility replacement with their existing revenue stream? And don't forget that the district also collects hundreds of thousand of dollars every year from fees assessed on builders and developers that is supposed to go for new classroom space to house additional students. No bond or parcel tax is warranted, but a display of fiscal common sense would be welcome.

BryanRobertsonHomes said...

I agree with the idea of living within their means. What I see in most government entities is a lack of common sense when it comes to spending money. They tend to overpay for things, sometimes because of the rules that govern how the money is spent.