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August 1, 2010

1994: Village to pay its way

Editor's Note: Story originally published June 4, 1994.


A negotiations breakthrough over school construction fees in Village I was announced Friday.

The deal creates a special property tax district and up-front facility fees that eventually will raise about $55 million for new schools.

After more than six months of sometimes bitter bickering, school, city and building industry officials said the agreement will allow construction of the long-awaited development to begin.

"This shows growth in Village I will pay its own way," Modesto City Councilman Dave Cogdill said.

Village I is the 1,750-acre, 8,000-home project in northeast Modesto approved by voters in 1990.

It is expected to add about 4,500 additional students to Modesto public schools.

How to pay for extra school campuses was the point of debate.

The agreed solution: Form a Mello-Roos Community Facilities District that requires homeowners to pay additional property taxes, and charge up-front fees earmarked for school facilities.

Representatives from Modesto City Schools, Sylvan Union School District, city of Modesto and the Building Industry Association of Central California signed a joint endorsement statement Friday.

Official school board and City Council approval is yet to come.

Here is what's proposed:

Home buyers pay a one-time fee of $3.65 per square foot at the time of purchase.

The fee would add $5,110 on the price of a typical 1,400-square-foot home, pushing the home's cost to $115,500. The fee would rise with inflation. The fees would go into a building fund for the two school districts.

Homeowners would pay additional annual property taxes averaging $210 per year. Those taxes would rise with inflation.

The taxes collected would pay off new bonds for school construction within Village I.

The annual taxes could be reduced if state funding is obtained for school construction.

Village I homes would be exempt from paying for existing school bonds in the Sylvan and Modesto districts.

"This would meet our needs for the three elementary schools and one middle school we have to build," said Sylvan's Superintendent Michael Sibitz.

The arrangement would not, however, raise enough funds to pay for the proposed Village I high school until about the turn of the century. In the meantime, Modesto's five existing high schools would have to absorb Village I students.

To accommodate approximately 1,300 extra students, the high schools would have to add "the maximum number of relocatable classrooms possible, shift to extended-day scheduling and possibly institute year-round schedules," said Debbe Bailey, director of planning for Modesto City Schools.

That's an acceptable compromise, said Modesto schools Superintendent James Enochs.

"You can't have a $40 million plant and have it operate only 10 months a year, then expect voters to approve a new construction bond," said Enochs of the year-round possibility.

Enochs said Modesto schools have operated on double sessions before while awaiting campus construction. He said Modesto High did it in the early 1950s before Downey was built, and Davis High did it in the early 1960s before Beyer was built.

The Village I plan will be considered for approval by Modesto City Schools trustees at 7 p.m. Monday in the district office, 426 Locust St.

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