GUSTINE - A survey weighing voter sentiments toward a potential November bond measure yielded no clear conclusions, the Gustine Unified School District Board of Trustees was advised at a May 20 special meeting.
Financial consultant Jon Isom told the board that, while the survey produced generally favorable marks toward the district in general potential voters expressed enough concern about a bond measure that more conversations between the district and its constituents are needed to better gauge the prospects of a successful bond measure.
“We have some data. At this point it needs to be balanced with on-the-ground conversations,” Isom told the board.
He said indications are that - if everything falls into place and key community stakeholders are supportive - the district appears to have support for a measure.
But, Isom acknowledged, based on the survey results alone “I don’t know if you should go (forward with a bond measure). I don’t know if you should not go.”
Dr. Bryan Ballenger, district superintendent, said the district is developing a plan to reach out to community members to gain further feedback.
The bond survey, he noted, reflected the opinion of about 100 respondents - a small percentage of the district’s 3,500 registered voters.
District voters approved a $14 million bond measure in 2014 which has funded a number of improvements, including the renovation of Gustine High locker rooms and construction of a multi-use room/gym at Gustine Middle School.
But Isom told the board in March that the district has in excess of $25 million in unfunded projects, including a new science wing and cafeteria at Gustine High, modernization of the high school campus and new classroom wings at other schools.
Time is a factor as well, Ballenger told Mattos Newspapers.
The district is in line for a significant amount of state matching funds to help pay for projects, but will only receive that money if it can provide a 50 percent match - which a bond would provide. Gustine Unified risks losing the state money without a local match, Ballenger emphasized.
In addition, he said, approved plans for those projects will expire if the district does not move forward with construction in timely fashion.
“We could be leaving a lot of money on the table if we do not move (on a bond measure),” Ballenger commented.
He noted that a proposed bond amount has not been determined.
“We are trying to come up with a bond amount number based on what our community is able to handle as far as tax rates,” Ballenger explained.
The district, he added, will give serious consideration to putting a bond measure on the November ballot. It has until early August to make a final decision on doing so, Ballenger said.
“We have old facilities,” he reflected. “This bond measure would go a long way toward improving those facilities and bringing in new classrooms.”