No on Attempt #6/Measure EE
Seriously? We are having to fight this battle yet again? There have been five failed attempts since 1978 to build a high school on the unpopular Gird Road site in Fallbrook’s Gird Valley. Why is Bonsall Unified School District (BUSD) ignoring the voters and trying to pass Measure EE, Attempt #6?
When it was owned by Fallbrook Union High School District (FUHSD), the site on Gird Road was declared unsuitable for a high school and declared surplus (2011), was to be sold. Then FUHSD paid $2 million in cash, and offloaded the Great Gird Money Pit to Bonsall Unified School District (BUSD) after it expanded (unified) to include high school programs (2012 Measure BB, primarily funded by Lilac Hills Ranch-related interests). At that time, BUSD said it could accommodate 500 to 600 high school students without building anything.
BUSD then borrowed and built a brand new state-of-the-art high school with ten classrooms, a two-story high communal space that takes up half the building, administrative offices for the Principal plus two high school quality labs. It opened its doors to great fanfare in the Fall of 2016. Here it is:
BUSD’s 2018 high school graduating class was a whopping 57 students and yet BUSD insists it needs to build another high school and taxpayers should take on debt to do so. Measure EE is for $38M (double that for interest over 30 years or so) for Phase I of III.
BUSD’s projections are overstated. Noting that there are currently 7,798 housing units (CalMuni) in BUSD, generating 344 high school students in the Fall of 2018, an increase of 10% or 20% in the housing stock (780 or 1,560 units) should generate an additional 34 or 68 high school students, clearly not enough to support a high school for 1,500, not even enough for a high school of 500!
BUSD has been deficit spending for over seven years and its reserves are dangerously low. Therefore, understanding these numbers is crucial for the securing the health of the District.
District wide, BUSD has 2,547 students enrolled but students on campus daily (average daily attendance, ADA) is just 2,240 students. Taxpayers have built 124 classrooms (30 are portables). Using simple math, at 25 students per classroom, that’s enough room for 3,100 students. At a comfortable 27 students per classroom, that’s room for 3,348 students. At a contracted maximum of 32 students per classroom, that takes us to 3,968.
According to state enrollment projections, “declining birth rates and lower in-migration rates will send school enrollment on a continuous decline” as of 2021. Add in the fact that there are dozens of high schools (public and private) ringing BUSD, plus online learning options, and the key question becomes: are we overbuilt? Is brick and mortar learning a good investment for the District’s taxpayers?
Before the paint was dry on its brand new high school in 2016, BUSD introduced a $58M bond, Measure DD, to build a huge 150,000 sq. ft. high school for 1,500 with a performing arts center and 200,000 sq. ft. of parking, to be inconveniently located in Fallbrook’s Gird Valley? This would be the largest development ever in Fallbrook and certainly in Fallbrook’s 4-mile-long Gird Valley, an historical agricultural valley.
The locals in Bonsall and Fallbrook revolted. Those living in the southern edge of the District and to the west in Oceanside (BUSD runs from Oceanside to Pala, 88 sq. miles) asked themselves the logical question: Should I vote to tax myself for 30+ years for a high we’ll never use? Thousands voted NO! Again. Attempt #5 to build a high school in Fallbrook’s Gird Valley, was toast.
During its unification process, BUSD said it could support 500 to 600 students on its existing campus in Bonsall without building anything. That was before it built a brand new high school (opened 2016). The State and County recommended BUSD sell the Gird Road property and build in the core of Bonsall. The Fallbrook Community Planning Group also weighed in on the fact that the proposed site, located just 1.1 miles from the northern edge of the District, stating the site was not centrally located as a high school should be. [See CEQA/EIR documents.]
So here we are, facing November 2018 and Attempt #6, Measure EE for $38M!
The Bonsall Unified School Board (BUSD) is saying, let the people vote. The people have voted. They have voted five times and said NO! So why is a school board ignoring the will of the people with yet another election? Might it have something to do with mega developers who see General Obligation Bonds (debt on all the property in the District) as a way to dodge paying for a key amenity (a shiny new school for 1,500 students) they can offer expensive home buyers? Maybe. Beyond the negatives of open space and agricultural land lost to such unpopular schemes, there are strong ties, including funding for ballot measures, between BUSD and mega developer Lilac Hills Ranch.