Pollock Pines Elementary School District and 22 other California school districts accomplished an unusual feat in this week's elections. Each passed a general obligation bond.
"We are very pleased," said Kevin Monsma, superintendent of the Pollock Pines district. "Sixty-two percent support is a nice response from the community."
Strapped by years of budget cuts, school systems are looking for money to patch roofs, update air conditioning and heating systems, and bring advanced technology into classrooms.
Statewide, about 26 percent of 95 school bond measures introduced between 2009 and 2011 failed, a website run by municipal finance expert Michael Coleman shows.
But on Tuesday, 23 of the 32 school bonds that appeared on the ballot passed, bringing in $1.86 billion for schools. Pollock Pines was the only district in the greater Sacramento region with a bond proposal on the ballot Tuesday.
Voters seem to be having a change of heart over the last year, approving 71 percent of general obligation bonds on the ballot last November and 72 percent on Tuesday, said officials from the consulting firm School Services of California.
"It really goes to show the level of community and local support going to schools right now," said Cathy Allen, the San Juan Unified district's senior director of facilities and planning. "They are willing to open their pocketbooks if the money goes to local school districts."
Districts still on the fence about whether to move forward with a bond in November are taking notice. School officials from San Juan and Sacramento City Unified called the election results encouraging.
"There is no question that the passing of these bonds in this week's election and recent elections shows that local communities are willing to invest in schools. That's something we're paying attention to," said Gabe Ross of Sacramento City Unified, which is considering a bond for the November ballot.
San Juan may put a $350 million general obligation bond on the fall ballot, while Washington Unified in West Sacramento is looking at a $30 million bond and Folsom Cordova Unified is considering a bond of about $60 million.
School boards have until July 17 to to file the necessary paperwork to get their bond measures on the November ballot.
In the meantime, school officials at Pollock Pines Elementary School District are deciding how to spend the $9 million that will be earned from Measure K.
The district's schools, Pinewood and Sierra Ridge, are in desperate need of paving and technology upgrades and could benefit from being made more energy efficient, Monsma said.
The schools have 25- to 30-year-old portable classrooms and antiquated heating and air-conditioning systems, among other things.
"We know if we can lower energy costs, that has a positive effect on our general fund," Monsma said.
Each campus also will require as much as $750,000 in repairs to be current with requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to a report commissioned by the Pollock Pines district board in 2009.
Monsma said the district needs just under $12.5 million to complete all the projects, so it will use capital facilities reserves and apply for state matching grants to help complete all the upgrades over time.
"We want to do great things for kids, but make the dollar stretch as far as we can," Monsma said. "It's being responsible to the community."
The bond will cost residents in the district $25 per $100,000 of their property's assessed value.
General obligation bonds require 55 percent voter approval and can only be used to upgrade facilities and technology.