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$25M school bond to Foster City voters
July 22, 2011, 01:44 AM By Heather Murtagh, Daily Journal Staff
Housing an ever-growing number of elementary school students in Foster City requires a fourth school, according to district officials who are officially asking for voter support in the city through a $25 million November bond measure.

On Thursday, the San Mateo-Foster City School District Board of Trustees voted 4-0-1, with Trustee Ellen Mallory Ulrich absent, to put a $25 million bond on a ballot before Foster City voters in November. Originally, the board, which serves San Mateo and Foster City, was hesitant about splitting the district to fund a new elementary school. Since then, the board has taken steps to create a school facilities improvement district that allows it to tax only a portion of the district. Such a measure requires a 55 percent support rate to pass.

Putting the measure on the ballot was a long process. Trustee Lory Lorimer Lawson was vocal through the process about fears of dividing the district. However, as she noted, the district exhausted all other options to accommodate the expected enrollment growth.

"I want to dedicate our efforts to try to keep our district together for all kids," she said.

Trustee Julie Chan, who lives in Foster City, said many parents in the area expressed comfort with this option. Parents were looking at alternatives like moving to another area with less crowded schools or putting their children in private school -- both expensive options.

"By comparison, paying a few dollars in tax seemed a much more palatable alternative," she said.

Increased enrollment and a desire to offer neighborhood schools to families brought on the district's search for a home of a yet-to-be-built fourth Foster City elementary school. The bond measure, district officials say, will cover the building costs for such a school. If passed, the tax will cost property owners $18.82 per $100,000 of a property's assessed value.

In January, Godbe Research conducted a phone interview of Foster City voters.

Sixty percent of those polled supported at tax rate of $19 per the $100,000 of a property's assessed value. Support increased to 64 percent when the rate dropped to $14.

Purchasing land could be covered using funds from Measure L -- a 2008 $175 million bond measure, to make up the difference. Measure L's bond language allows for helping with overcrowding issues. How much from Measure L would be needed is unknown since negotiations for land are ongoing.

Finding a home for a new school has been a challenge for the district. In recent months, the board has discussed four sites during closed session meetings with values ranging from $2.2 million to $20.6 million. Among the possible locations are: 400 Mariners Island Blvd., located on a street which acts as the boundary between San Mateo and Foster City; a six-acre parcel at 1164 Trinton Drive; a 4.9-acre parcel at 551 Foster City Blvd.; and a six-acre location at 1050-1064 Shell Blvd.

A number of other school districts are seeking voter-approved funds in the upcoming election.

The San Bruno Park Elementary School District is seeking a $40 million bond for facility upgrades. On Monday, the Millbrae Elementary School District Board of Trustees will seek a bond measure for $30 million. Lastly, the Burlingame Elementary School District Board of Trustees has been discussing a parcel tax but no decisions have been made.

Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: heather@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.


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