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, and...repair 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?