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Taking Measure: ‘I’ does not have it in Three Rivers

Taking Measure: ‘I’ does not have it in Three Rivers

All of the votes have been counted, and while the total results are not yet official, all of the foothill area ballot items which were too close to call are now definitively a success or a failure.

The most surprising local ballot measure to fail was Measure I, the parcel tax measure to provide financial assistance to Three Rivers Union School. Measure I ended up with about 64% of voters in favor, just short of the two-thirds (66.66%) needed to pass the parcel tax measure. The measure’s failure left some residents wondering if the school was going to shut down after its century old history in the rural, mountain community.

Superintendent Susan Sherwood it was “disheartening” the measure failed considering all of the support she had heard from the community leading up to the election and beyond, but said the district will move on without the funding.

“We don’t intend to close the doors,” she said. “We will persevere. It’s what we do here.”

Measure I would have levied $60 tax on every parcel within the Three Rivers Union School (TRUS) district boundary. The money would have been used to maintain and support current teacher/student relationships, attract and retain qualified teachers, maintain classroom and school facilities and prevent the single-school district from being absorbed by a larger district. Sherwood said the passage of Proposition 30, the statewide quarter-cent sales tax increase to backfill California’s education funding, will provide an influx of money the school did not budget for, giving it enough revenue to continue operating as an independent district.

“Put aside that money and didn’t include it in the budget,” Sherwood said. “We will now wait and see what else happens with Prop. 30.”

TRUS’ enrollment has been in steady decline since 1990. Similarly, district revenue has dropped from more than $1 million in 2008-09 to about $700,000 in 2012-13. Since 2008, TRUS has made significant cuts to cope with dwindling enrollment, state budget cuts and delayed reimbursements. But things might be looking up for TRUS.

“We will keep curtailing expenses and doing combination classes but there seems to be an upward trend,” Sherwood said. “We are losing 10 eighth graders [in May] and have 20 preschoolers who are going to enter Kindergarten next [school] year.”

The district has decreased its budget for materials and supplies, lowered the amount allotted for school lunches and replaced four full-time positions, including three teachers and an administrative secretary, with one part-time teacher and by having Superintendent Sue Sherwood also teach a classroom for the last three years. When the part-time librarian/tech specialist retires, that position will not be filled. Furthermore, the district has reduced medical insurance benefits, a cost of living increase for employees since 2010, implemented staff furloughs and combined classes in grade 3-4, 4-5 and 5-6.

Sherwood said the district has received some donations from community members to with its operating budget. Three Rivers has had a school since 1873, longer than some of the larger cities in the county. In 1910, Cove School changed its name to Three Rivers School. Three Rivers Union School District was formed in 1927, a new building was constructed in its current location, and all schools merged into one. Sherwood said a special designated fund has been set up to accept donations in lieu of Measure I. Anyone interested in donating to help the district maintain its level of academic achievement can make checks payable to: Three Rivers Union School, P.O. Box 99, Three Rivers, CA 93271.

“If you are donating to offset Measure I or to help the school in general please not that on your donation,” Sherwood said.

 

Measure L

While Measure I was among 10 school parcel tax measures to fail out of 25 statewide on the November ballot, Measure L in Lindsay was among more than 85 school bonds to pass across the state.

But it wasn’t until last week that victory was clear.

Following election night, Measure L was surprisingly close and two votes shy of the 55% needed to pass the $16 million school bond for Lindsay Unified School District. However, in the weeks of counting absentee and provisional ballots since then Measure L jumped to nearly 59% in favor.

“It says a lot about our community and its desire to ensure our learners are learning in modern facilities,” Superintendent Tom Rooney said.

The revenues from the bonds will be used to upgrade LUSD’s aging elementary school sites as well as district-wide improvements to Internet access, additional outlets, new data and cabling systems, more energy efficient heating and air conditioning, completely renovated bathrooms, new security cameras and fire alarm control panels.

A little more than half of LUSD’s permanent classrooms are more than 25 years old with just over one third of them being eligible for modernization funding from the State. Portable classrooms account for 30% of all classroom structures in Lindsay. According to birth rate data trends collected by the district, LUSD’s student population is projected to increase by 6% in the next 10 years. Because the state does not recognize portable classrooms in its capacity standards, LUSD is nearly at its capacity as a district and is projected to exceed its current capacity by 2017. This means LUSD will be eligible for an estimated $8.8 million in state matching funds and state grants to modernize any facilities more than 25 years old.

The bond will be funded through local property taxes. Property owners living within the district will be charged a $45-$49 property tax per $100,000 of their assessed property valuation per year for the next 20-30 years.

“Now we will begin the process of optimizing our funding to make sure we get as much for our money as possible,” Rooney said.

The bonds would be issued in four phases. The first phase would sell general obligation bonds in 2013 in the amount of $6.6 million. Phase two would issue $1.7 million in bonds in 2017, followed by $3.1 million in 2021 and $4.6 million in 2025.

 

Measure O

Measure O, a proposal to change Exeter City Treasurer position from elected to appointive, squeaked out a victory last week with a 13-vote margin.

Last week was the first ‘Yes’ votes held the lead on the measure. Following election night, Measure O’s passage was failing with 49.22%. The measure steadily gained minute increments in the post-election county of absentee and provisional ballots until being assured of a victory with 50.25% of the vote as of Nov. 30.

The idea behind the measure was to prevent unqualified people from being elected to handle this essential function of municipal government which requires years of training. Treasurer presents financial reports from the staff to the City Council and is the signatory for all transfers to and from City funds. The position requires an understanding of “Fund Accounting,” which is different from General Accounting, and public finance experience or experience as a Certified Public Accountant.

As of May 2010, a little more than one-third of city treasurers (173 of 482) are elected in the State of California, according to the League of California Cities.

With the passage of Measure O and Measure N, the positions of City Clerk and City Treasurer are now both appointed. Outside of the City Council, the two positions were the only ones still elected leading up to the election. City Administrator, Finance Director, Police Chief, City Attorney, City Planner and City Engineer are all appointed positions.

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