Livermore voters rejected the bond 51-49, while the latest count shows Pleasanton within six-tenths of a point of passing at 54.4%.
Livermore trustees and senior staff took a huge swing, going for a $450 million issue that would have raised taxes $60 per $100,000 in assessed valuation. That is on the heels of a 2016 measure that the district has spent or incumbered. The results are the wonderful new athletic complex at Livermore High that replaced a 1940s generation gym. That said, voters were not willing to reach into their pockets for another big chunk of change for the schools. It doesn’t solve the issue—perhaps district staff should have bided their time or taken a smaller bite, but this swing for the fences came up short. Where they go from here remains an open question—the needs remain. .
In Pleasanton, district leaders and campaign leaders settled on a slightly more modest level-- $395 million that translated into about a $50 increase per $100,000. They opted out of any senior accommodation figuring that seniors had benefited for years from the relatively fixed rates established by Proposition 13 in 1978. For people who have been in their homes 20 or more years, they are paying vastly less in property taxes than neighbors who have moved in the last five years.
The situation in Pleasanton schools, particularly at Amador Valley High, is nearly ridiculous by Pleasanton standards. Look at the middle school/community gyms at Harvest Park and Pleasanton Middle School and then compare those to the gyms at Amador Valley where the “new” gym opened in 1968. The other gym dates back to the opening of the high school in 1923—Amador will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year.
Whatever the needs, 55% of the voters needed to buy in and both Pleasanton and Livemore are coming up short. Livermore’s preliminary vote, with some unknown ballots still to be counted, stood at 51-49, while Pleasanton’s bond was within shouting distance at 54.6-45.4 percent with about 12,000 ballots remaining to be counted.
Pleasanton officials had tried to rebound from the bond defeat a couple of years ago when the 2016 measure had yet to be spent. The careful examination of facilities and needs showed nearly $1 billion of need, thus the relatively modest $395 million measure. If the defeat holds, then it’s back to the drawing board for both districts with a problem not resolved.
The state budget provides the vast majority of the funding for local districts on a per pupil basis without regard to the condition of the facilities—it’s basically leaving capital needs up to the local community.
With the state budget gushing revenues in the last years between the success of high tech and the federal funds pouring in, the budget required that about 40% of revenues go to k-12 and community colleges. The money gusher could not easily be diverted or specified for capital projects unless local district did so—no doubt facing aggressive opposition from the teachers’ union. It pointed out the failure of trying to budget at the ballot box, a failure that was repeated by special interests that sold the 1% for arts on last week’s ballot. It unwisely ties the hands of local officials in the same way that Proposition 98 tied the hands of the governor and legislators.
It may seem expedient in the moment, but is awful public policy.