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Committee forming to educate about proposed school bond

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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The Western Placer Unified School District will soon form a campaign committee to inform Lincoln residents about the school bond measure to be on November’s ballot, according to district staff. Funds from the $163-million bond measure would be used for school improvements and modernization of existing Western Placer Unified School District schools, and also to construct a new elementary school and phase one of a new high school, according to previous News Messenger reports. The tax rates would be limited to $60 for every $100,000 of assessed property value. The district’s assistant superintendent of business Joyce Lopes said Friday that the campaign committee will consist of parents and community members who “have expressed interest” in the district or who have worked on district committees such as the facility-needs committee. Lopes noted that the committee would be funded through fundraising and “no district money will be spent to campaign.” “They’ll (the campaign committee) be doing fundraising and organizing walks throughout the community to make sure citizens are informed about the bond issue and what we’re trying to accomplish,” Lopes said. She added that the committee will telephone residents “to inform them about the bond and putting fliers together. “ School district employees are not allowed to advocate for the bond, according to Superintendent Scott Leaman, but “legally can give information out about the bond.” “We can let people know what’s in the bond and information about the bond,” Leaman said. Lopes said the district is also “getting the paperwork filed with the Fair Politic Practices Committee” so that agency can “make sure we are complying with regulations for campaigning and how the committee conducts business.” If the bond doesn’t pass, the district wouldn’t be able to proceed with the facilities improvements and construction outlined by the facilities master plan, according to Lopes. “We will have to find a way to accommodate students in the facilities we already have,” Lopes said. Three of the five candidates for school board, Brian Haley, Damian Armitage and Terry Gage, are supportive of the bond. Both Haley and Gage are currently serving on the school board, and hold two of the three seats that are up for re-election. Ana Stevenson is the third incumbent, and told The News Messenger in early July that she’ll run for school board. Two candidates who have pulled paperwork with the Placer County Elections Officer are Kris Wyatt and Damian Armitage. Gage said she’s in support of the measure. “We simply don’t have the facilities to meet the needs of our growing district and the state funding sources are non-existent due to the state’s continual budget crisis,” Gage said. “I don’t give my support lightly but these funds are dedicated to the sole purpose of building and rehabilitating our schools to provide the resources our kids need and deserve.” Gage said she also supports the measure because “it is the citizens that get the final say on this.” “I am all in favor of the bond because I think it’s well-researched,” Haley said. “We have had public workshops about financing the facilities and plenty of board and community input in the last two years.” Haley said a successful bond measure requires one “knowing why we’re doing it and why it’s necessary.” “I think it’s necessary because we have not had a lot of money to update older facilities,” Haley said. The district has had to spend money to hire teachers, classified and administrative staff because of growth, according to Haley. “We had to spend money on immediate needs such as staffing and growth but didn’t have the money for repairing facilities and building them,” Haley said. “So we’re saying we think it’s necessary now to prepare for the future even though we’re having a hard time.” The district will “carry on with the money we have,” providing well-educating schools that “won’t fall apart but won’t be as nice,” according to Haley. Armitage said he supports the bond even though “it’s coming at a time when we can least afford it.” “I believe overcrowding and overflowing of students negatively impacts the students’ education and sense of community,” Armitage said. “The additional facilities will also attract new homeowners to the community, eventually increasing our property values.” The News Messenger attempted to contact the other two candidates but was unable to reach them before press time.