The Hemet Unified School District is investigating the feasibility of initiating a new bond measure this year. The measure would authorize the district to borrow between $100 million and $150 million for capital improvements throughout the district, including Idyllwild School.
“Right now we are in the feasibility study stage. The only thing we’ve done is to hire a consultant to ‘test the waters,’ as it were, to see if a bond issue in November has a chance of passing,” said Vic Scavarda, the Idyllwild trustee.
At the Jan. 9 study session, the board heard from Vince Christakos, assistant superintendent for Business Services, about the needed capital improvement looming on the horizon.
Some of the issues facing the capital facilities staff include the possibility of all-day kindergarten in the future, which was on the board’s agenda during its Jan. 23 meeting, repair and renovation of existing buildings, and potential growth.
During the regular meeting, the board approved contracts with CliffordMoss, a consulting firm, and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, to be legal counsel on the bond matters.
CliffordMoss had FM3 Research conduct a poll of 681 HUSD voters from Jan. 6 to Jan. 10, regarding their views on the district, and the need and merits for a bond measure. These results were presented to the board at its Jan. 23 meeting.
These voters were almost evenly divided on the direction of their schools. Thirty-seven percent believe schools are headed in the wrong direction, but 36 percent think schools are going in the right direction. The remaining 28 percent were not sure of either.
However, a significant majority (greater than 70 percent) felt repairing and maintaining schools helps local property values. And 60 percent believe school classrooms are aging and in need of repair.
Yet when asked about support for a $150 million bond on the November 2018 ballot, only 55 percent supported its passage. A tenth of those were “undecided, but lean yes.” The poll also found that support fell below 50 percent if the prospective bond measure was on the June 2018 ballot.
Also, support was actually 2 percent less if the prospective bond measure was only $98 million.
Interviewees were very supportive of a statement referencing the need to repair old schools and upgrading schools to prepare the students for today’s world.
The consultants told the board that a $150 million bond is viable but the focus should be on the November ballot rather than June. CliffordMoss also discussed its plan to help the district convince voters of the need for this work.
HUSD’s total capital facilities’ needs approach $190 million, according to Christakos’s presentation earlier this month. This includes $8.6 million identified for Idyllwild School.
The largest portion, $5.8 million, is for building improvements and repairs. “There are several items listed on the master plan for Idyllwild,” said HUSD Director of Facilities Hans Twardowski in an email. “Included in the list are lighting upgrades to the interior, ADA compliance retrofits, security camera installation, propane tank replacement, window replacement in the original office building, office area modifications, casework replacement, interior paint, theatrical lighting and controls for the gymnasium, rain gutter installation, and portable replacement.”
He also emphasized that almost $1.8 was for contingencies and implementation costs, such as “architect fees, Department of State Architect plan review fees, inspection fees and testing.”
Christakos stated in an email that passage of a bond measure would not result in the full amount being available immediately.
“If a bond measure is put on the ballot in 2018 the district would not be able to sell the entire $150 million right away,” he wrote. “ … This means the project list would need to be prioritized to put the greatest needs first. Bonds would probably be sold in smaller increments over a ten-year period.”