The Gilroy Unified School District will receive $170 million from city property owners to build a new elementary school and update two middle schools.
Measure E, which passed on Tuesday, needed 55 percent of the voters to approve it. It got 59.31 percent, or 4,982 of 8,400 votes. Some 40 percent were against it, or 3,418 voters.
“I’m really excited and really appreciative that Gilroy voters got behind the measure to build the elementary school we need,” said Jaime Rosso, who has been on the school board for 16 years and chaired the committee to campaign for the measure.
“In this environment, you can’t help but be nervous. It just shows there was a lot of work that needed to be done and the community got behind it.”
Critics complained that the measure was expensive and is being added to two previous rounds of taxpayer funding that are still being paid off. This will add a bill to property owners of $60 per $100,000 of the property’s appraised value. Gilroy taxpayers are already repaying $341.2 million in principal and interest on $219 million in school bonds from measures I and P in 2002 and 2008.
“Some of our schools look so good it’s hard to see the need,” said Rosso. “But I’m appreciative that the community recognized the fact that there’s still other needs and we’re going to have a new elementary school.”
The new 700-student school will be built across from Solorsano Middle School. Rosso said the funding will come in chunks, starting with a $50 million payment. He expects the school to be built in three years. Preparations for it have been ongoing for two years.
A Dispatch survey taken outside Nob Hill supermarket drew mixed results, but most favored the measure.
“I’m not interested in raising taxes,” said a man who would only give his first name, Craig.
“I’d vote yes if they got rid of Common Core,” said a woman who declined to give her name.
“I am voting no on Measure E, because there is no official cap rate on how much taxes can be taken,” said a woman who identified herself as Emily. “Given how in the past we’ve spent over $300 million in taxes toward Gilroy Unified School District and witnessing where the allocation of funds actually ends up. As a GUSD parent, I do not feel Measure E is well written and the taxpayers’ money would not be well spent.”
On the other side, a man named Steven argued: “I don’t think our schools have enough funding either way. There’s no guarantee, but hopefully it’s going to the schools and not the administration. It should go to the students directly.”
The money can only go toward the buildings and salaries of several administrators who will monitor the bonds. They will earn $500,000 a year in salaries and benefits, including $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.
There were questions about why the bond was submitted to voters in June, rather than in November, when a bigger turnout is expected.
Rosso said they preferred this election because the measure would stand out to Gilroy voters. It might have been buried under a slew of other measures in the bigger election, he said.
Rosso, who also owns the furniture store that bears his name, has been in charge of facilities for the board and has been focused on making improvements. He attended two graduation ceremonies on election day.
“You go through the ceremonies and you feel how special our schools are and you see the ones that have already improved and you see that people really value what’s going on in the district,” he said. “So many people have investments in their families and their kids and they know how important it is to have high quality schools.”
Nicholas Preciado contributed to this report.