"Now we can start moving ahead," Board President John Montgomery says
By a whisker – 44 one-hundredths of a percent.
That’s the margin voters in the Taft City School District approved $23.6 million in bonds to pay for upgrades on the district’s six campuses.
The final count on Measure C in yesterday’s primary election was 983 yes votes (55.44 percent) compared to 790 no votes (44.56 percent).
A 55 percent majority was required for passage.
“It was close, but a win is a win,” said Supt. Ron Bryant, admitting he breathed a huge sigh of relief when he saw the final tally early today. “In the end, it came down to just a handful of votes. I’m excited.”
Board of Education president John Montgomery likewise was elated even though he thought the margin of victory would have been bigger.
“I thought it would be at least five percentage points, but we’ll take it,” he said. “Now we can get started doing some things that we need to get done. Now we can start moving ahead.”
Passage of the bond is welcome news for a school district that has been reeling over the past three years from budget cuts that forced layoffs and landed TCSD’s budget on the “qualified” list meaning it is at risk of not meeting financial obligations for the next two years.
Bryant said bond revenue takes a little pressure off the general fund.
“We’re looking at $450,000-$500,000 a year for the first five years of general fund relief,” he said. “Times are tough and budgets are slim so the timing is good.”
He said matching funds from the state and other sources will actually swell the $23.6 million to more than $30 million available for school site improvements.
Despite the bond approval, the district must continue to show restraint, Montgomery cautioned.
“We still need to be conservative with what we do with that money,” he said.
The first task will be to appoint a citizens oversight committee that will be charged with making sure bond revenue is spent for its intended purpose.
“The board will have a timeline to appoint an oversight committee,” Bryant said.
The $23.6 million in bonds actually exceeds the district’s bonding limit, he added.
“You go a little above it (the limit),” he said. “You want to be a little bit high. You want the capacity to sell more bonds and use those proceeds. That’s a pretty standard approach.”
Bryant said work on improving cooling and heating and electrical systems and upgrading things like classroom technology will get underway in August.