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Measure G: Officials look to voters to fund Plumas Lake middle school

April 13, 2018

Middle school is a time when kids typically experiment with science projects, explore their artistic sides, learn how to navigate new technologies and participate in team sports.

This isn’t to say that sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students in Plumas Lake aren’t doing those things, they just don’t have the necessary facilities to support those endeavors.

That’s why the Plumas Lake Elementary School District is hoping voters pass Measure G this June. If approved, the measure would allow the district to issue $20 million in bonds to build a new middle school, equipped with a new gym and facilities for things like science, math, art, technology and music.

“We are planning for the future,” said Jeff Roberts, superintendent for the K-8 district. “We have grown by about 250 students over the last three years. We are expecting to see that growth in enrollment coming back next year, but we only have enough room for about another 250-350 students. So, if that growth continues, in three years we could potentially reach full capacity at our school sites.”

Plumas Lake residents would pay off those bonds over the span of about 30 years through property taxes at an average annual tax rate of $0.072 per $100 of assessed value (or $72 per $100,000 of assessed value).

As it stands, the district has three schools – two K-5 schools and one middle school – with a total of about 1,270 students. However, the middle schoolers are stationed at the Riverside Meadows campus, which was built as an elementary school.

“It has a kindergarten playground and no real gym that a normal middle school would have. There are no science or technology labs, and it doesn’t have the arts and fine arts room,” Roberts said. “We’ve done the best we possibly can to make that site work for middle school, but we’ve outgrown the facilities.”

High-school aged students in Plumas Lake are part of the Wheatland Union High School District.

Community growth

Enrollment in the district grew significantly in the early 2000s as developers built up the community. What was once a one-school district with about 100 students turned into a district of three schools in just over four years.

Then the recession hit, slowing down development. With the school facilities that were already built, the district had enough space for students. But the economy has improved since then.

“The developments that were shut down during the crash are starting to ramp up again,” said Gary Bradford, a Yuba County supervisor whose district includes the Plumas Lake area. “Really, in the next couple of years, depending on the growth rate, there will be a need for a new campus.”

This isn’t the first time the district has brought up the fact that a new facility is needed. Plumas Lake voters had a similar measure on the ballot in 2016, but it failed to receive the needed votes – the effort came up short by 37 votes.

“We didn’t run a campaign in 2016 because it was during a presidential election, so we felt it would be overpowered by everything else,” he said. “This year, there has been a committee set up that will be campaigning to try to get those last 37 votes. We do need a two-thirds approval for it to pass, so our hope is that those last 37 votes come our way this time.”

Moving forward

The location for where the middle school would be built has already been decided.

Roberts said the two school districts, the Olivehurst Public Utility District and Yuba County purchased 100 acres along River Oaks Boulevard near Feather River Boulevard in 2012 for the purpose of building a middle school (25 acres), a new high school (50 acres) and a community park (25 acres).

“The whole idea when we bought that property was that we could purchase the 100 acres at a lower cost because of the times. We also saw that area as being a community center. So, this is an opportunity to break ground. If this is passed, the middle school could be the first project, then we could expand it as we go,” Roberts said.

If 66.7 percent of residents vote in favor of the measure, Roberts said the district would sell the bonds in three phases to keep taxes “as low as possible” for residents.

“If growth continues how it has been, we will sell the first part of the bond to pay for design, architects and pre-approval. Then, we would sell a second part of the bond when we are ready to build to do all of the early payments. Then the final part will come in once the middle school is done,” Roberts said. “Taxpayers won’t see that full assessment until further down the road. They probably won’t see anything change on their tax bill for the next 2 years.”

The bond money would only be the local match needed to construct the middle school, or about one-third, roughly. Another third would likely come in the form of state funding, while the last third would likely come from builder fees, Roberts said.

“I would encourage residents to support the ballot measure,” Bradford said. “I recommend supporting it for the sake of home values and for the future of our children’s education.”

Residents will get their say when they vote June 5.