By Juan Reyes

The Morgan Hill Unified School District is hopeful that the district’s registered voters will agree with the school board, and approve a $900 million school bond on the March 3 ballot.

The school district is asking for the giant bond issue to fund what it says are much-needed repairs and renovations to all of its 14 schools, along with some major touchups.  

The school bond, known as Measure I, will be on the ballot for the primary election on March 3.

It’s the biggest school bond issue on Santa Clara County ballots, which also includes votes on 10 other bond issues in different jurisdictions.

At least 55 percent of registered voters would need to vote yes in order for the Measure I bond to pass.

The resolution presented by MHUSD states that Measure I will authorize $900 million in bonds at legal rates, levying, on average, 4.7 cents for $100 assessed value for $27.9 million annually. 

Taxpayers can end up paying $47 per $100,000 in assessed value, which means a homeowner with a house worth $500,000 will end up paying an additional $235 in taxes each year.

Only facilities, technology and equipment upgrades are allowed. No Measure I funds may be spent on administrators’ salaries or pensions.

It’s been nearly eight years since the last bond was passed to support MHUSD schools. The two previous general obligation bonds were in 2012 and 1999, both of which will be paid off in 2047.

According to the district, the upgrades will enhance student access to computers and modern technology, and refurbish aging science technology, engineering, math, vocational and career education classrooms along with labs.

That includes replacing outdated electrical systems and wiring for computer technology and internet access. The bond could also bring in new computers, laser printers and digital white boards.

The funds should also improve heating and cooling systems, restrooms, energy efficiency and handicapped accessibility at district schools, according to the bond resolution approved by the MHUSD board. Other projects include fixing deteriorated roofs, floors, insulation, plumbing and electrical systems. 

New fire alarms, fire sprinklers, security systems and security fencing along with lighting for improved student safety are also on the list. 

Some money will go toward retrofitting classrooms and schools to meet earthquake safety standards. There’s also some mention of upgrades to music labs, multi-purpose rooms, learning centers and media centers.

The bond is also intended to fund improvements to physical education areas, outdoor spaces, fields, play equipment, multi-use facilities, and pick-up and drop-off zones.

According to a fact sheet from the district, a master plan was completed in September 2017, showing that nearly $1 billion is needed to repair and modernize district schools, which serve about 9,000 students each day. 

The district says these upgrades should help retain and attract quality teachers. 

Morgan Hill Unified is made up of six K-5 schools, two K-8 campuses, two middle schools for grades 6-8, two high schools, a continuation high school and a community adult school.

Voters in Santa Clara Unified School District approved a $720 million bond in 2018. Santa Clara voters also passed a $419 million bond in 2014. In 2012, the school district won approval for an $84-per-parcel, five-year tax. 

San Jose Unified School District voters passed a $72 eight-year parcel tax in 2016 and a $290 million bond in 2012. 

In 2016, Gilroy Unified School District had a $170 million bond passed. 

The school districts receive funds from California State Lottery sales revenue. In 2017-18, lottery allocations to K–12 education totaled $215.80 per pupil in average daily attendance, or ADA. 

The next highest bond measure on next year’s primary election ballot is Measure H, a $898 million bond measure put in by the Foothill-DeAnza Community College District. The Foothill-De Anza measure has less of an impact on its district property owners than the Morgan Hill vote, with Foothill-De Anza bonds requiring a levy of 1.6 cents per $100 assessed valuation.

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