Gilroy voters received a note last week from its schools chief, a four-page plug for Measure E, the $170 million bond question on the June 7 ballot to fix and build schools—and pay employee salaries, it turns out.
Gilroy Unified School District spent $4,780 to produce and send 12,886 mailers to registered city voters, according to district spokesperson Rachel Zlotziver.
“The district is communicating with the public and assisting them in understanding the impact of Measure E,” she said.
“Members of the community have many factual questions that only the district can fully respond to; it is incumbent upon the district to respond,” she said, adding, “providing fair and accurate information about Measure E is not campaigning.”
State law prohibits public officials from campaigning for measures they place on the ballot. However, Education Code Section 7054 allows the district to “engage in informational activities” related to Measure E, Zlotziver said.
The mailer begins with an overview of the district and tells voters that Measure E passage means property owners would pay $60 per $100,000 of assessed valuation annually for 30 years. But it does not remind voters that Gilroy taxpayers already have obligated themselves to repay $341.2 million in principal and interest on $219 million in school bonds from measures I and P in 2002 and 2008.
While the mailer lists six ways Measure E funds will be spent, it fails to mention that some money will pay district salaries. In addition, it does not remind voters that annual repayments of $11.7 million in principal and interest on I and P have paid and continue to pay nearly a half-million dollars a year in salaries and benefits for the GUSD’s in-house facilities staff, which administers the bonds and bond-funded projects.
When bond money is used to pay salaries, that money, like the rest, is repaid over 30 years with interest.
The salaries include $170,000 for facilities director James Bombaci, $130,178 and $104,791, respectively, for bond managers Michael Rice and Jenny Derry and $72,798 for accountant Toni Bozzo.
“The salaries of personnel charged with carrying these duties have always been funded out of bond funds,” said assistant superintendent Alvaro Meza.
The district mailer states that bond funds cannot be used for “teacher or administrative salaries.”
Meza said the four positions are not administrative.
The mailer also states that if Measure E passes, the district will be eligible for as much as $12.7 million in state matching funds for facility improvements and new construction.
But it fails to mention that state funds, as Zlotziver confirmed Wednesday, will be available only if a $9 billion state schools bond measure, opposed by Gov. Jerry Brown, passes in November.
The district has $11 million in its reserves account, about double what the state requires, which includes $1 million for a new grade school.
District personnel have made six presentations to community groups, “in order to provide factual information about the needs of the district and the effect of passage or non-passage of Measure E on the district’s ability to finance facilities improvements,” Zlotziver said.
Meanwhile, GUSD continues to struggle with plans for solar power installations at its two high schools and two junior highs, estimated to save millions in electricity bills at no cost to the district.
School trustees last September approved contracts with SunEdison to install the systems this summer. The deal includes repaving for free of the GHS parking lot.
However, Team-Solar, the SunEdison subsidiary that was to do the work, filed for bankruptcy, which will delay work until the summer of 2017, Meza said.
“We are committed to the solar projects. They are going to happen but it might happen with someone else,” he said.
For a detailed list of school renovation and new construction projects funded by GUSD bond measures, go to his link: http://bit.ly/24r49R7.