Cardiff School District gathers community feedback to address aging facilities and safety needs
Options include exploring community support for a prospective school improvement bond measure on the November ballot
— Submitted press release
Cardiff School District, a small, two-school district, is considering a school improvement bond measure for major capital improvements to its facilities ahead of the upcoming November 2016 ballot. The District’s primary needs are to improve safety and make major repairs and facility improvements to the aging 55-65-year-old buildings on the Cardiff School campus.
Cardiff School was founded in 1913 with 23 students. It was rebuilt in 1950, modernized in 2002, and currently serves 369 kindergartens through third grade students. Ada W. Harris Elementary School, which presently serves 350 third through sixth grade students, was originally constructed in 1960 and was completely rebuilt in 2002 using a school improvement bond measure.
The Cardiff School District Board of Trustees began to review facilities needs as a result of the findings in a recent Facilities Master Plan (“FMP”) presented to the board by the San Diego County Office of Education, Facilities Solutions Groups in the fall of 2015. The identified FMP needs, totaling over $2.9 million, included major facility repairs at Cardiff School, such as the replacement of 65-year-old inoperable, classroom windows, leaking roofs, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.
While the schools have been maintained over the years, many of the Cardiff School buildings are 55-65 years old and do not meet 21st century learning standards. Additional facilities needs of approximately $4 million have also been identified by the board, including the replacement of aging portable classrooms on both campuses, a safety retrofit on the brick building on the Cardiff campus, and the completion of other facilities projects not addressed in the 2000 school improvement bond measure, such as addressing handicapped accessibility compliance in the 1950’s Cardiff School kitchen.
Need for a school facilities improvement bond measure
After analyzing the scope of the facilities needs and a comprehensive review of the district budget, which is healthy and within recommended guidelines for small, community-funded districts, the board concluded that the district’s general fund is insufficient to support the large capital facilities improvements needed.
A review of external funding options led to the conclusion that a school facilities improvement bond measure is the most appropriate and viable option for the district. School facilities improvement bonds are the most common financing tool for school districts throughout the state and locally in San Diego County, and a cost-effective approach to fund major facilities improvements. A school facilities improvement bond measure is based on local assessed valuation and the funds are raised target to specific capital improvements and is overseen by a citizens’ committee. The timing for a school facilities improvement bond measure is advantageous due to the combined effect of high assessed valuation and historically low interest rates. Additionally, the upcoming November election is expected to have high voter turnout and will enable a large percentage of the Cardiff community to weigh in.
Locally in Cardiff, voters approved a school improvement bond measure with over 80 percent approval in 2000, which was primarily used to rebuild Ada Harris School. Cardiff property owners are currently paying $33.24 per $100,000 of assessed valuation annually for the 2000 measure which is set to expire in 2025. The original $11 million measure was estimated to cost property owners $43 per $100,000 of assessed value, but refinanced in 2010 to save the community over $500,000.
The district currently has a total net bonding capacity of $28.4 million based on Cardiff’s total assessed valuation of $2.67 billion.
The concern of continuing to invest in an aging 55-65-year-old infrastructure prompted the board to consider a long-term facilities solution for Cardiff School.
To date, the board has reviewed plans and budgets from architects and engineers, and consulted with a California public schools’ financial advisor, and has a continuum of options to improve facilities in the district, all of which would require a pursuing a school improvement bond measure.
One such plan proposes rebuilding the old classrooms and multipurpose facility on the Cardiff School campus and includes designing classrooms for the 21st century learner, increasing safety by improving the campus layout and designated student drop off, and addressing the lack of current parking. Buildings constructed on the campus during the last bond would remain and be architecturally enhanced to reflect the community’s overall vision for the campus. A cost analysis by an outside consulting firm estimated the cost of this project to be $22 million. It is estimated that a school facilities improvement bond could add additional property tax of $26.25 per $100,000 of assessed valuation to Cardiff residents.
Obtaining community feedback
Many of the community’s residents have attended Cardiff School or have children or grandchildren that attend the iconic school, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean on San Elijo Avenue. Providing a superior education has always been a priority for the Cardiff community. Today the school is viewed as a cornerstone of Cardiff. As such, the board feels that it is important to obtain the community’s feedback regarding the major capital improvements needed at the school.
Earlier this month, the district formed a Facilities Focus Group to solicit community input on the scope of the projects and need for a school improvement bond measure. The Focus Group consists of a diverse group of Cardiff residents, business owners, parents, alumni, faculty and other community leaders. The Board of Trustees will use the input from the Facilities Focus Group as one method to obtain community feedback in order to make an informed decision.
In addition to the Facilities Focus Group, a formal telephone poll to registered Cardiff voters will gage support for the issue from the greater Cardiff community. An online survey will also be used to solicit input from the families of currently registered students.
Timeline going forward
Community feedback will be reviewed at the June 9 regular board meeting. A decision regarding future direction will be made by the board in subsequent public board meetings. Currently, Special Board meetings have been scheduled for June 13 and June 16. All meetings are open to the public, and community input is encouraged. The deadline to pass and submit a resolution for inclusion in the November ballot is Aug. 12.