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School Bond Efforts Win in Santa Paula, Lose in Fillmore

Education: Winning initiative calls for major building repairs. Official in losing district says he's 'devastated.'


Santa Paula voters overwhelmingly approved a $10-million school bond measure that will be used for major building repairs, while Fillmore residents narrowly rejected a $7.5-million bond initiative that would have financed construction of a new elementary school.

Measure D, which will be used to renovate the seven schools in Santa Paula Elementary School District, received 79.9% of the vote in Tuesday's election. The final tally showed 3,368 residents supported the bond, with 846 voting against it.

"I have a big smile on my face," Santa Paula Supt. Bonnie Bruington said. "This is a wonderful reflection on the community that they cared so much to do this."

The average homeowner will pay an extra $3.19 per month per assessed value to cover the bond debt.

The bond will make the 3,900-student district eligible to receive up to $40 million in state school construction funds. With the money, the Santa Paula district plans to install new heaters, fans, roofs and carpet in many classrooms, and repair plumbing in several schools.

Bruington said she and her staff members will begin applying for the state funds this week, and hope to get started on school improvements within a few months. Santa Paula had not passed a bond in nearly 40 years, she said.

In Fillmore, Measure E, which would have been used to build a new elementary school, received 63.4% of the vote, just shy of the two-thirds majority needed to pass. The initiative received 2,069 yes votes, and 1,194 no votes.

"I'm devastated," Fillmore Supt. Mario Contini said. "But for the sake of the community, I can't just hang it up."

Fillmore Unified School District trustees now must decide whether to campaign for a new bond in June.

If board members choose not to go forward with a new initiative, they will have to consider other options, such as year-round schooling or double sessions.

District officials expect more than 1,000 new students to move to Fillmore in the next six years.

"We have to make an alternative plan, because the kids are going to come," Contini said.

Fillmore passed a $12-million bond in 1997 that was used to build a new middle school. But Contini said the district desperately needed the new bond to build an elementary school to accommodate incoming students and relieve overcrowding in the 3,700-student district.

Without local funding, the district risks losing $7 million in available state funds.

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