School bond on board agenda Tuesday

The Petaluma City Schools District board may decide next Tuesday whether or not to pursue bond measures that would provide the funds needed to upgrade technology, fix facilities and bring major improvements to all district schools, including a swimming pool to Casa Grande High School and performing arts centers to both Casa Grande and Petaluma high schools.

Since Petaluma City Schools is, in reality, two districts governed by one board and a shared administration, two bonds are being proposed, a $19.3 million measure for the elementary school district and a $68.6 million measure for the high school district.

The school board will consider the proposal to put a general obligation bond measure on the June 3 ballot when it meets at 6 p.m. in the board room of the district office at 200 Douglas St.

If the board approves the proposal, property owners would be asked to pay $20 annually for each $100,000 of assessed valuation in the elementary district and $30 a year per $100,000 of assessed valuation in the high school district to fund the bonds. Property owners who fall within the boundaries of both districts would vote on and pay for both bond measures.

Petaluma City Schools Superintendent Steve Bolman said many voters would not see a difference on their tax bill. Because the districts have substantially paid down the bonds approved by voters in 1991 (elementary) and 1992 (high school), elementary district property owners would pay a similar rate to what is paid now. High school district property owners could expect to see an increase for up to five years as the 1992 bonds are paid down, but then would be facing tax bills comparable to what they pay currently.

He added that once the previous bonds are retired, the district will not have the financial leverage needed to obtain state grants and other potential funding streams. "To do that, we need matching local funds," he explained. He added that there is a possibility that the district could enter into "joint ventures" with private or community groups for some on-campus facilities.

The majority of the $19.3 million elementary district bond money would go toward modernizing the schools' infrastructure, improving technology in the classrooms and replacing portable classrooms with permanent classrooms.

On the list of proposed projects are several big-ticket items. Casa Grande could get a swimming pool, performing arts center and second gym, along with an all-weather track. Petaluma High School projects include a performing arts center and new field house, along with modernization of its swimming pool and gymnasium. Both high schools would have their playing fields renovated with synthetic turf.

All secondary schools would receive technology upgrades, including enough computers for every student.

Some $6.6 million could go to pay off the debt the district accrued building the new Kenilworth Junior High School.

Bolman points out that all of the proposed projects would be prioritized by the school board.

"There are some things that are absolutely necessary for us to do," he said. "Some things we need to do to provide our students with the same facilities and opportunities that other schools in the area have."

Petaluma City Schools board President Troy Sanderson added that under state law, every project has to be identified in the language of the bond measure, which is why it includes such large-scale projects. "If we don't identify it, it is not in play," he said. "It (the project list) doesn't mean we're going to start construction on everything right away."