Natomas School Bond Measure Goes to Voters

City councilmember Angelique Ashby talks to community volunteers as the prepare to walk precincts for Measure L. / Courtesy Photo

BY JAKOB FRANCO
THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

This Election Day voters who reside within the Natomas Unified School District boundaries will vote on a proposed $172 million bond measure.

If approved, monies from the school bond would be used to modernize classrooms, increase district infrastructure, and specialized support programs for students.

“Our community is growing quickly with construction on many new single-family homes, the district needs these funds to accommodate new students and complete current projects,” said Karina Talamantes, chief of staff for Natomas city council representative Angelique Ashby.

Measure L enjoys widespread support from government leaders including city Mayor Darrell Steinberg, county Supervisor Phil Serna, state Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, state Senator Dr. Richard Pan, and Ashby, who chairs citizens committee formed to support and promote the bond. Measure L has also been endorsed by the Sacramento Bee, Sacramento Central Democratic Committee, educators and parents in Natomas. Currently, there is no formal opposition to Measure L.

“The bond would set the stage for classroom and other facility improvements to enhance 21st-century learning and technology access, expand academic choice, upgrade safety and security, accommodate rising enrollment, repair and renovate existing schools, and complement our Board-adopted Vision that all students graduate as college and career ready,” Natomas Unified Superintendent Chris Evans wrote in a letter to the community on August 17, 2018. Requests for an interview with Evans went unanswered.

Measure L will be paid for through an increase in property tax for homeowners within the school district’s boundaries — approximately $60 per $100,000 of a home’s assessed value. As such, voters must decide both whether the cause is worthy of funding and whether this is worth the increased payments over the lifetime of the bond. 

Bonds are loans taken out by a government agency for a specific purpose. These loans accrue interest over time and generally end up costing double the initial proposed expense.

According to campaign materials, the proposed bond includes language which ensures oversight measures such as audits, review of all expenditures by a citizens’ oversight committee and, restrictions from spending any of the funds on administration, salaries or pensions.

Since the building moratorium in Natomas was lifted in 2015, new housing construction has brought with it more students. The Natomas Unified School District seeks approval of Measure L  funds in order to implement its 15-year master facilities plan.

This plan includes building new facilities as well as improving existing facilities to meet the district’s needs. The bond would also pay for technology, accessibility measures, and safety improvements, as well as career-oriented programs in Natomas schools such as this Public Safety Pathways Program, launched at Inderkum earlier this year. 

Measure L is the successor to Measure J, bond passed in 2006 which provided funds to the district with similar goals in mind. With Measure J funds depleted, district officials report Measure L is needed. 

“We have portables over 25 years old,” said Natomas Pacific Pathways Prep Executive Director Tom Rutten, adding that the adjoining Paso Verde Elementary campus has, “The oldest buildings in the district.”

Rutten is hopeful the bond’s passage will result in the refurbishment of NP3’s aging buildings as well as the construction of some new ones.

“Quality facilities send a message to students that their education is valuable,” he said.

Both Talamantes and Rutten said they felt confident Measure L will be passed by voters on Nov. 6. 

More information on the bond can be found on the Natomas Unified School District website at https://natomasunified.org/measure-l-school-facilities-bond/  .