School bond passes: Now work begins

– There is one catch to Tuesday’s successful bid to land $69
million for local school construction and upgrades. Supporters of
the bond measure now owe $65,000.
GILROY – There is one catch to Tuesday’s successful bid to land $69 million for local school construction and upgrades. Supporters of the bond measure now owe $65,000.

The $65,000 represents the fee charged to Yes on Measure I supporters by Tramutola Public Mobilization, the Oakland-based firm that ran the campaign ending Nov. 5 with an overwhelming 62.4 percent of the vote. The measure needed only 55 percent to pass.

The campaign fee is not unreachable. Better Schools for Gilroy Children, the grassroots group behind Measure I, raised at least $86,000 between Aug. 17 and Oct. 31, according to campaign filings from the organization. However, about $56,000 has already been spent on the campaign, meaning Better Schools will be re-approaching the community members and businesses that have already donated.

“Most of the donors expected it would be a one-two punch,” said School Board President Jim Rogers, who was an instrumental player within Better Schools.

Better Schools Co-chair Bob Kraemer said the group is still savoring its victory and has “plenty of time,” two and a half months, to finish paying off the consultant’s fee.

“I know there are people out there waiting to help out,” Kraemer said. “A lot of people didn’t want to donate until after Measure I won.

“I don’t enjoy fund-raising of any kind,” Kraemer continued. “But we have more work to do to get the funds in.”

Meanwhile, the school district is beginning its work to actually bring in the monies that will help realize its 25-year facilities master plan.

Within the next six months, the district plans to sell the bonds that will fund construction and modernization projects. After state matching funds are received, the district will have about $90 million of the $155 million it will need to build a new high school and renovate a dozen district campuses.

“Even though we won’t sell the bonds immediately, this frees up other facilities funds,” Superintendent Edwin Diaz said.

Thanks to the passage Tuesday of Proposition 47, the state will make $3 to $5 billion available for new construction and modernization by Dec. 11, said Duwayne Brooks, director of school facilities for the state Department of Education. That funding will be borrowed from an existing state investment account, Brooks explained. Later, the treasurer’s office will determine the best time to sell the bonds authorized by passage of the proposition, he said.

Diaz said the local and state funds allow the district to begin preliminary design and engineering work on several projects as well as seek final approval from the state on projects already in the pipeline, such as repairing roofs at Gilroy High School and the air conditioning at El Roble.

The first major project for the district will be rebuilding Eliot Elementary School.

Diaz said demolition of the existing site would begin this summer. Students would be housed in the new middle school, Ascencion Solorsano, next school year and in 2003-04 would move back to the Eliot site.

“We couldn’t be more excited about the passage of this school bond,” said Eliot Principal Diane Elia.

Elia said her school currently has no bathrooms adjacent to kindergarten rooms, no multipurpose room and no Internet access for the classrooms, among other shortfalls.

“I have strong feelings about schools being equitable. This bond is everything this neighborhood school needed.”

Elia acknowledged that relocating over next two school years would require staff, student and parent flexibility, but said “we’re up for it.”

Tuesday night’s results are spreading positive feelings district-wide, Diaz said.

“People were really excited. Part of the thing about working in public schools is that there aren’t many times you get this type of support and positive feedback,” Diaz said. “We’re enjoying it.”