Administrators of crowded Santa Clarita Valley schools plan to try again in June to persuade voters to tax developers an average of about $6,000 on each new home to finance school construction.
Trustees of the Sulphur Springs and Castaic elementary school districts gave tentative approval to the special-tax election last month. The Newhall, Saugus and Hart district school boards are scheduled to take similar actions this month. Final wording on resolutions calling for the election on June 2 are expected to be approved later this month.
The school-tax measures proposed are identical to six ballot propositions that narrowly failed to receive the necessary two-thirds approval by voters on the Nov. 4 ballot. All six measures received more than 61% of the vote, leading administrators to propose the second tax election.
"When you've come that close, it's difficult not to try again," said Clyde Smyth, superintendent of the William S. Hart Union High School District.
Builders Spent $230,000
Developers, who said the tax would be passed on to home buyers, spent more than $230,000 to defeat the tax in November and are expected to oppose any new attempt at imposing the school fees. They argued that a $5-billion state school financing plan approved by the Legislature in September should provide the district with the funds they need for new schools.
The state plan includes $800 million for school remodeling and construction and enables school districts to impose fees of $1.50 per square foot on new residential development.
But the Santa Clarita Valley's student population is expected to more than double by the year 2000 because of unprecedented construction, Smyth said, and school administrators have no guarantees that they will ever receive any of the state funds. He said the state already has committed $1 billion in construction funds to other districts.
Lots of Competition
"Our districts are moving as rapidly as we can into the state building program," Smyth said. But, he said, the Santa Clarita Valley districts first must justify their need, then get in a long line with other districts and wait for financing.
"Palmdale now qualifies for nine new schools," Smyth said. "There is state funding for one. If we're lucky, we'll get some planning money."
The $1.50 per square foot fee would average about $2,000 per new home, Smyth said, and must be split between the high school and elementary districts. That amount is far less than is needed to build schools, he said.
School administrators project that at least 10 new elementary schools, two junior high schools and two high schools will be needed within 15 to 20 years to handle the influx of new students whose families will be drawn to the area because of rapid housing construction.
Filled When It Opens
The Hart district, Smyth said, will need one new high school opened by 1991 and a junior high school by 1992. The high school will be filled to capacity by the time it opens, he said.
Sulphur Springs Supt. Robert Nolet said his district, in the fast-growing Canyon Country area, is over capacity. He said the district has enough "money to buy half a school and that's it. We'll build whatever we can afford and open it in 1988."
The approval last week of 7,400 new housing units in Canyon Country by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will bring an estimated 3,200 new students into the district, Nolet said.
In 1988, Newhall, Castaic and Saugus each will open one new school. After that, school administrators said, they have no more money to build schools.
Until funds for new classrooms are obtained, Smyth said, the districts must look at other ways to ease crowding, including split and double sessions, year-round schools and busing students to schools outside their neighborhoods.
Other superintendents said their districts will continue to bus students, use portable classrooms and teach classes in multipurpose rooms such as the cafeteria.
"We use every available space on the school grounds," said Saugus Supt. Charles A. Helmers.