Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – Arcata’s schools aren’t going to fall down tomorrow, but like any buildings, they age, things break, and need repair. And since they house children on a daily basis, it’s important that they be kept in good shape, and up to ever-changing codes.
The Arcata Elementary School District has two funding measures on Tuesday’s ballot – Measures H and I. Both would be used to maintain and improve the facilities at Arcata Elementary School and Sunny Brae Middle School.
Measure H is a $59 parcel tax that continues one in place now that ends in 2017. According to the district, it helps stabilize funding for classroom equipment; counseling; music, art and dance programs; health and safety improvements and health programs, mental and physical; and to keep class sizes low. None of the tax’s proceeds would be used for administrator salaries.
Measure H includes qualified exemptions for those over age 65 and those on SSI or SSDI.
Measure I is a $3.4 million general obligation bond measure, with proceeds to be used to address a variety of physical problems including classroom and bathroom maintenance and modernization, and replacement of outdated HVAC systems.
“We are targeting really necessary repairs and improvements so that we have functional buildings,” said Barbara Short, district superintendent.
Compounding the need for additional funding is the state’s placing the burden of employee pensions via the California Teachers’ Retirement Law (CalSTRS) and the California Public Employees’ Retirement Law (CalPERS) back on districts. That’s a $200,000 to $300,000 yearly expense sucked right out of the district’s budget.
CalSTRS employer contributions are increasing from 8.25 percent in 2014 to a total of 19.1 percent of payroll in 2021, while CalPERS is going up an additional nine percent in the same time frame, Short said.
“We’re not getting extra money to do this,” Short said. “We’re basically losing money for education.”
In recent months, the school’s staff, teachers, parents and community members have developed a priority list of specific projects that the two measures’ funding would address, including those listed above. Expenditures would be monitored by a independent citizens’ oversight committee.
Measures H and I have been endorsed by City Councilmember Mark Wheetley, incoming Supervisor Mike Wilson and numerous civic and business leaders.