Measure U seeks $6 million bond for Ravenswood
Publication Date: Wednesday Oct 30, 1996

ELECTION: Measure U seeks $6 million bond for Ravenswood

Property tax would cost between $17 and $30 for East Palo Alto property owners

Voters living in the Ravenswood City School District, which encompasses East Palo Alto and a part of Menlo Park, will be asked to approve Measure U, a $6 million school bond to pay for repairs and renovation of the district's eight schools.

Most of the schools are between 30 and 40 years old, and with state budget cutbacks over the years, money has been diverted from building maintenance to classrooms and teaching.

But the district's enrollment has doubled in 10 years, with the same 30-year-old classrooms having to accommodate more students. Those same classrooms have decades-old wiring, which is being used to provide power for new computers and other technology.

"The buildings are old, and they're pre-computer age," said Bomani Siwatu, president of the Ravenswood school board and a strong proponent of the bond measure. Along with the doubling in enrollment, schools are being used for longer periods of time throughout the year, after school and over the summer, taxing the buildings even more, he said.

If Ravenswood voters approve the bond, which needs a two-thirds majority to pass, the first tax increase would be $17 per $100,000 assessed valuation, and peak at about $30. The average assessed valuation of a home in East Palo Alto is $110,000, Siwatu said.

The life of the bond would be 30 years, and the work would start as soon as next year. The bond funds can only be used for school buildings and not for salaries or programs.

The measure is by no means meant to rebuild the schools. "You won't see a lot of the flashy stuff," Siwatu said. "What the voters are getting, we're preparing the school to serve the kids."

Bathrooms will be modernized, old galvanized pipes replaced, fields resodded, and playgrounds repaved. Old electrical wiring in classrooms will be replaced to accommodate new technology, and new roofs will be installed.

"In winter time when we turn on the boilers, when the pipes burst, they come through the floor," said Superintendent Charlie Mae Knight. Enrollment, she said, has hit 5,000 this year, and the district needs to repair its infrastructure "to at least keep up with the other school (districts) around us."

While other districts often hire consultants to run their bond campaigns, organizers in East Palo Alto have conducted a fairly low-key campaign, only putting lawn signs up last week, and preparing simple campaign brochures.

No organized opposition to the bond measure has surfaced in the community.

--Elizabeth Darling 

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