Dear Bonsall School Community,
The most recent blog entry discussed investing in the future. This entry will focus on the greatest opportunity Bonsall has ever had to do that. Bonsall is coming upon just such a time as this to create an incredibly bright future. It is an extremely rare and precious opportunity for a community to determine its future. When growth becomes fast at the same time a community creates its first high school, if the high school is designed right it will attract a demographic profile that will greatly increase the community’s education level and property values. At the June 8, 2016 Regular Board Meeting, during the Public Comment portion, a gentleman spoke to the Board about the growth in Bonsall, why the new high school, and what are the District’s plans to communicate with the Bonsall school community about these issues. It’s time to present how we got where we are and where we plan to go.
About 2008, the same time that Bonsall schools took off in performance, the widening of Hwy 76 began right through the middle of our District. When all Bonsall schools rose to 10 in similar school rankings, and Fallbrook High was a 6, voters opted for a change; a unification proposition was passed in 2012 despite the fact that Fallbrook had to vote for it, too.
In June 2014 Wayne Oetken & Associates did a Growth analysis and Enrollment Projection that called for Bonsall to double in size in the next 6 years. Beginning on the Sullivan Middle School campus, Bonsall High, a New Tech High Network school (similar to High Tech High) opened in September 2014. The facilities for the high school will become available to the Middle School as it grows and the High School moves to a beautiful 50 acre site on Gird Road, near Hwy 76.
Building the High School on Gird Road will require a General Obligation Bond that is designed for the November 8, 2016 ballot, assuming the Bonsall Unified Board of Trustees approves a resolution to do so at its regular meeting on July 14, 2016. Based on our current assessed value, the Bond could be about $58 million. This Bond will also have to include funds for much-needed safety upgrades at the other schools. We must remember that our country is at war and many of our families are connected to the military, so the safety upgrades are critical. We are planning to use bond funds for things like security cameras, electronic lock and keying, and fencing. Keeping safety in mind, everyone in Bonsall knows we must invest more in traffic control and parking. To improve our community’s health we also need joint-use exercise facilities like tracks and fields at the other schools. For example, Bonsall West Elementary has a renowned before-school running program, but the school doesn’t even have a track. It is our intention for the high school gym to be similar to Del Lago Academy in Escondido, where it also serves as a fitness center for the community.
Efficacy and frugality are filters that the Bonsall Unified School District applies to all we do. Since 2008, the Transportation and Nutrition Services have changed from losing hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to having balanced budgets. The before and after school programs have also gone from being in the red to being in the black. The solar project implemented in 2010 has shown great savings, avoiding the sharply increased utility rates many San Diego County Schools are suffering from. We have refinanced outstanding debt, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars. Our Bond will require a Citizen’s Oversight Committee, and we are applying to the San Diego County Tax Payers Association for an endorsement. Such accountability is a healthy way to develop better schools while protecting local taxpayers.
Bonsall has a very unique opportunity that is all about timing; at the same time that state Hwy 76 widening brings strong growth, Bonsall begins its first high school; a high school designed to give students access to future economic realities. If our growth is smart, the demographic profile seeking high performing schools with a future orientation will likely come from many in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professions that offer the most promising jobs in our economy’s future. Families from those professions will want schools that can prepare their children for similar high paying jobs coming to San Diego, which is one of the top ten STEM areas in our nation. The ensuing trajectory in property value would be amazing. Besides the STEM field, our high school students will become interns in many of the areas of the economy that are local to our area; agriculture, the equine industry, building trades, hospitality, health, media, arts, and education are all areas our students will be able to develop networks in. This fall, our partnership with Palomar College will provide college units to students taking courses on our campus. We have also had great feedback from parents about the extension of our award-winning middle school music programs into Bonsall High School.
The widening of Hwy 76 is bringing growth to our community at an overwhelming pace. If the growth is smart and designed for the future of this area it could have amazing results. However, if the growth is haphazard it will have a very negative impact on our school community. Right now we have several smaller developments coming in; I can see Pardee with a few dozen homes and Davidson with 95 homes right outside my office window. We are already having capacity problems and have to turn down dozens of inter-district transfers seeking to attend Bonsall’s relatively high performing schools.
Timing is everything, and here is where it gets interesting. If as expected, at its July 14, 2016 Regular Board Meeting, our Board of Trustees approves a resolution to place a bond for Bonsall’s first high school on the November 8, 2016 General Election Ballot, the laws for campaigning go into effect and no District funds can be used to advocate for the passage of the bond. There will be a citizen-driven campaign, but it is not paid for with District time or funding. So today, it seemed prudent to provide for everyone an understanding of how the passage of such a bond will impact Bonsall taxpayers. Greater detail will be in the ballot language, but basically, an assessment of $60 per $100,000 dollars of assessed value would be added to a Bonsall property tax payment.
However, part of the California State Board of Education’s conditions for Bonsall’s unification was that the Bonsall community had to continue to pay for the Fallbrook High School Bond that was passed in 1994 for new construction of their performing arts center, library media center, and some other buildings. The current debt being paid by Bonsall property owners is equal to about $26.50 per $100,000 of assessed value. The property tax on a home with a value of $400,000 is about $106 each year. The great news is that their bond will reach maturity in 2019, relieving Bonsall taxpayers of that debt! So in a couple of years Bonsall taxpayers would only be paying approximately $30 per $100,000 more dollars than they are paying now, and getting safety upgrades, joint use fitness facilities, and a new high school!
Amazingly, another timing issue is the fact that there is a State School Construction Bond on this same ballot that could provide approximately fifteen million more dollars for Bonsall schools if we pass our bond, but that extra bond debt would be spread out over the entire state’s taxpayers.
Once again Bonsall has an incredible opportunity to make an investment that will pay off in a wonderfully bright future. Bonsall is such a rare and special place, and is going to be even more so if we take wise action by making our future what we want it to be.
Justin Cunningham, Ed.D.