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Downey to Vote on $11-Million Bond Issue to Renovate Schools

April 10, 1988|RICHARD HOLGUIN | Times Staff Writer

Downey Unified School District officials say it will take more than $3 million to whip Downey High School into shape, to fix its cracked walls and worn floors, to replace bashed-in lockers and to install air conditioning.

It will take more than $1 million to renovate Warren High and more than $7 million to fix up the district's 15 other schools, officials said. Improvements also need to be made at three elementary schools the district uses for adult education and leases to the county.

District voters will decide Tuesday whether property owners should be assessed for an $11.4-million bond issue to fund the work. The district serves Downey and portions of Bellflower, Bell Gardens and South Gate.

The Board of Education in January decided to put the bond issue on the April 12 ballot. Without the bond issue, officials said, the district will not have enough money for the wholesale renovation and will have to continue inadequate spot repairs.

"It's like someone who owns their own home," Deputy Supt. Donna Boose said. "You suddenly get to the point where you have to do the major things or lose your investment."

If the measure passes by the required two-thirds vote, a tax would be levied against owners of residential and commercial property based on the assessed value of their holdings. The assessment would decrease each year until the bond debt is retired in 25 years. Owners whose property has an assessed valuation of $100,000 would be taxed $62.62 the first year, $38.23 the second year and $3.07 in the 25th year, according to a district report. Owners whose property has an assessed valuation of $200,000 would pay $129.94 the first year, $79.27 the second year and $6.29 the 25th year.

A political action committee called Citizens for Better School Facilities for the Downey Unified School District has been formed by community leaders, developers and school officials who support the ballot measure, Chairman Ralph Amadio said. The committee has sent out one mailer urging voters to pass the ballot measure. There is no organized opposition.

"The schools are run down. There's no other source of income available to fix them," said Amadio, whose 11-year-old son attends East Middle School. "Somebody's got to do the upgrade on it, otherwise you have an instant ghetto."

If the measure is passed and the bond market is favorable, the district would sell the bonds in June, said Peter A. Lippman, district business manager. It would take about three years to complete the renovations, he said.

Alameda Elementary School has the district's oldest structure. Its administration building, which also houses four classrooms and a library, is 67 years old, according to district officials.

But Downey High needs the most work and probably will be renovated first if the bond measure is approved, officials said.

On a recent afternoon at Downey High, students attended classes in rooms that had torn curtains and paint peeling from walls. The daily passage of hundreds of students had worn the varnish off wood floors. Other flooring was cracked.

In a hallway, a young couple hugged in front of rusted, dented lockers and others without doors. Some windows are broken and have been boarded up.

Worn from Use

Downey Unified buildings fared well in the Oct. 1 earthquake and its numerous aftershocks, district spokeswoman Michele M. Swanson said. The buildings are simply worn from years of use, she said.

"Structurally they're sound," Swanson said. "It's just the wear and tear. It's just age more than anything else."

At Downey High, entire buildings will be remodeled, buildings that were constructed in 1940 under the U. S. Works Projects Administration.

The district also plans to use the bond money to install air conditioning and filtering systems at all its schools. None of the schools are air conditioned.

New Roofs Needed

Districtwide, some floors would be repaired or replaced. New windows and lights would be installed at some schools. Some roofs would be replaced or repaired.

The bond money also would pay for carpeting, sprinklers and drinking fountains. Some restrooms would be renovated and asphalt replaced. Fresh paint would be applied.

With a $52-million general fund budget and a contingency reserve of $1.5 million, officials said the district would not be able to afford the renovations without bond money.

By year's end, officials plan to spend about $1 million from the district's deferred maintenance fund on repairs to school buildings, leaving only $127,000 in the account, Lippman said.

The district has a building fund of $3.2 million, but officials have been committed to renovating the administration building and to constructing a new swimming pool at Downey High, among other projects, he said.

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