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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : State Waiver Sought Over School Bonds : Castaic: Though voters approved $20 million for two new campuses, Proposition 13 allows only $14 million.

August 20, 1994|DOUGLAS ALGER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

CASTAIC — This rural community's school district was an exception to the rule last year when its voters approved a $20-million bond measure for two new schools.

It was only the second school-bond measure to pass in the Santa Clarita Valley since Proposition 13 limited property-tax increases for many California residents in 1978.

But in order to sell all $20 million of the bonds, the Castaic Union School District must be an exception again.

The district plans to use the money to build a junior high school in the Villa Canyon area and an elementary school near Camino Del Valle Park.

There is just one problem. Under a State Department of Education rule that school officials originally overlooked, the district should only have sought voters' approval to sell $14 million of bonds.

The rule, in effect since Proposition 13 was passed, prevents districts from issuing bonds in an amount greater than 1.25% of the assessed value of property within their boundaries.

It is designed to ensure that "school districts don't get so much in debt they can't pay it off," said Dwayne Brooks, the education department's assistant superintendent for school facilities planning.

The rule was news to the Castaic school board and other residents who supported the bond sale.

"There are a lot of districts or entities that are probably unaware of it," said Dirk Gosda, who promoted the measure as a member of Castaic Citizens for Castaic Schools and now serves as a district trustee.

The trustees voted 5 to 0 Thursday night to seek a waiver from the State Board of Education to sell the remaining $6 million in bonds. They expect the state board to review the application in mid-October.

If the waiver is allowed, the additional bond sales will raise the $39.21 annual fee paid by the average Castaic homeowner for schools by $5, officials said.

Trustees had the option of using other money to start building the new junior high now in the hope that property values increase enough in the near future to permit more bond sales.

The district has on hand about half the estimated $17 million needed to build the junior high school, said Michael R. Slater, business manager.

He and other local school officials say they are confident the waiver will be approved, citing waivers granted to districts elsewhere. They also note that 78% of Castaic voters supported the $20-million bond sale at the polls.

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