The San Bruno Park School District is asking voters to approve a $40 million bond for building and modernization projects. But the measure has provoked unusually harsh criticism from officials who doubt the district can be trusted to manage the money.
If approved by 55 percent of voters, Measure O would tax San Bruno property owners an estimated $30 per $100,000 in assessed property values annually for the next 40 years to pay for capital improvements such as athletic fields and new sewer, plumbing and gas lines.
District superintendent David Hutt said the measure would bring Parkside Intermediate School up to modern standards and provide additional playground and play field options for kids. The bond also would pay for technological tools in every classroom, which Hutt said students need to prepare them for their adult lives.
Former school Trustee Chuck Zelnik and others allege that district officials lied to the state this year when they sought the right to apply $12.1 million from the sale of Carl Sandburg Elementary School toward “noncapital” projects such as pensions, computers and landscaping equipment. At the time, Zelnik said district officials promised the state they did not need any new infrastructure.
Yet just two months later, district officials proposed Measure O specifically for such capital projects, complained Zelnik and Trustee James Prescott.
Prescott, who didn’t vote to put the measure on the ballot, argues that the district doesn’t need more bond money for infrastructure spending, but rather tax revenues to reduce class sizes and retain staff. But while he hopes that might come from a future parcel tax, San Bruno residents could be tax-fatigued after first seeing a bond measure on the ballot.
But Rebecca Kirk of the state’s Office of Public School Construction said the district never told the state it didn’t have capital needs — nor was it required to. Kirk said officials were simply asked to prove they had the resources to pay for any current or deferred maintenance projects deemed necessary at the time. That they did, Kirk said, while complying with all the other certifications required by her office.
Hutt, who filed the application with the state, also said the district acted within the law. And he defended the repurposing of $5.3 million from the school sale to cover unfunded pension liabilities because it freed up an additional $250,000 a year from the district’s operating expenses.
Former Vice Mayor Bill Baker isn’t buying that, and says he is considering suing district officials for “lying” to the state.
“Mr. Hutt is good at telling people that the sky is purple when it’s blue,” said Baker, who filed a report with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission earlier this year that resulted in Hutt being fined for failing to disclose information about his wife’s employment with the school district.
Proposed Measure O projects:
- Renovating playing fields and playground equipment
- Completing Parkside Intermediate refurbishment
- Current technology in all classrooms
- Replacing underground utilities: gas, sewer, water, electric
- Disabled-accessibility upgrades to restrooms, classrooms and playgrounds
- Replace outdated heating system
Source: San Bruno Staff Report
Correction: This article was corrected on Oct. 18, 2011. A previous version of this article incorrectly described a vote to put the measure on the November ballot. The motion passed by a four-to-zero vote, with Trustee James Prescott absent.