Bond eyed for Le Grand school projects

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comNovember 24, 2013 

— School trustees in Le Grand are considering placing a general obligation bond issue on June’s election ballot to pay for improvements on the Le Grand High School athletic field and to build an agricultural farm and bus barn.

A survey conducted by Walnut Creek-based Isom Advisors for the Le Grand Union High School District showed 65 percent voter support for a bond measure. Fifty-five percent is needed for passage.

Superintendent Donna Alley estimated the bond would be for $2 million to $2.3 million. There is no other recourse, she said, because there are no developer fees coming in and no state money available for school construction.

“It looks like it would pass,” Alley said.

Facilities needs had been put on hold for the past few years because of the recession. Alley is not sure what the improvements will cost but will have an estimate when she meets with the district’s architect.

Trustee Jim Tesone said the Isom survey showed overwhelming support for a bond measure. The projects are things that have been needed for a long time.

“I love our school and our community,” Tesone said. “It’s up to the people. It’s not a want; it surely is a need. We understand things are tight but want to provide for the kids. Our intent is to keep it (the bond amount) as small as possible.”

Alley said bleachers need to be replaced at Fontes-Geary Athletic Field, along with the press box. The ag farm is needed so students who live in town have a convenient place to raise their project animals. Construction of a bus barn that is accessible to the handicapped is also envisioned.

Alley said the district has 516 students. A 2006 bond financed $1 million in improvements to the school cafeteria. The district has about $8.7 million in bonding capacity.

Trustee John Chavez, a former Planada school superintendent for 18 years, said 65 percent of the Le Grand High student body live in Planada. Stressing he was speaking only for himself, Chavez favors seeking a bond election.

“It will only enhance what we are already doing well,” Chavez said.

Trustee David Serrano said his thoughts are mixed on the bond election. As a property owner, he said, he’s reluctant to add more taxes, but as a trustee he recognizes the bond seems to be the only alternative.

“We were looking for funding and couldn’t find any,” Serrano said. “There’s nothing out there.”

Isom representatives told trustees the survey testing voter attitudes regarding the district, projects to be funded by the proposed measure and tax tolerances was conducted Oct. 29 through Nov. 1. There are 2,477 registered voters in the district.

During the three-day calling period of the survey, 181 households were contacted, representing 26 percent of the 705 households with a working phone number. Isom representatives said support for a bond measure was 65.7 percent.

Sun-Star staff writer Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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