By Caroline An, Staff Writer | Pasadena Star News
06/11/2008 PASADENA - Voters in the Pasadena Unified School District slightly prefer a bond over a parcel tax to pay for campus improvements, according to recent surveys.
In two surveys conducted last month that sampled 500 voters, 61 percent said they would support a proposed $300 million bond measure.
By contrast, 60 percent of voters said they would go for a parcel tax.
PUSD school board members commissioned the survey as a way to gauge community support for either a bond measure or parcel tax on the November ballot.
A parcel tax would need a two-thirds majority to pass, while a bond measure would need 55 percent approval from voters.
The school board is expected to vote July 1 on which of the two options it will pursue, district officials said.
School board President Tom Selinske said there appears to be some openness by board members "to explore both options."
"I'm still mulling it over myself, though I'm still supportive of the bond," he said.
District officials already have identified about $400 million in needed facilities upgrades. With less funding coming from the state, board members have said they would need public financing to make the improvements.
Among major improvements identified were upgrading computer and phone systems and improving athletic fields. Additionally, a plan to reconfigure grades at middle schools could end up requiring major renovations to accommodate more students, officials have said.
In 1997, district voters approved Measure Y, a $240 bond measure that was suppose to pay for renovations and upgrades at the PUSD's 28 schools. While some campuses received upgrades, many others, including Blair IB Magnet and San Rafael elementary, received no improvements.
The district also received criticism of its oversight of bond spending. One contractor hired for the repairs skipped the country without completing renovations.
Board member Scott Phelps said he understood concerns residents may have as a result of how the Measure Y projects were administered. But he added that public school districts have few options other than asking for public financing to improve facilities.
While $240 million is a large sum, the bond money was spread among 28 schools, Phelps noted.
"Most neighboring school districts ask for millions for just a few sites. We spread if very thinly, and that's a big reason why things went awry," he said.
This time around, district officials vowed, a facilities master plan document will outline all of the improvement projects at each school. An oversight committee will meet regularly to review the projects.