Willits Unified School District
Frequently Asked Questions
In March 2020, we were 8 votes shy of passing Measure G to fund school repairs and upgrades. Since the needs remain urgent, we have put Measure I on the November 2020 ballot. The only difference between this bond measure and the one in March is that we’ve partnered with the local charter schools, both elementary and secondary, so they can raise funds for repairs at their facilities, too.
At Willits Unified, while our school sites may be old, we can still be proud of them. With some bond-funded repairs, we can keep them functional and attractive for years to come. Willits High School was built in 1929, Baechtel Grove Middle School in 1952, Brookside Elementary in 1953, and Blosser Lane School in 1989. With historical buildings comes the need for repairs and upgrades.
How does WUSD plan to address facility needs in our schools?
To maintain high-quality education and improve school facilities, the WUSD Board of Trustees voted to place Measure I on the November 3, 2020 ballot. Measure I would create a $17 million fix-and-repair fund over the next 12 years. The bond would be issued in four stages allowing the school board to reduce the burden on taxpayers should economic conditions change.
What challenges do Willits schools face?
We need to improve school security, as well as repair and replace deteriorating roofs, aging plumbing, and electrical systems. Our older schools require upgrades to meet today’s academic and safety standards and to ensure that school buildings, science labs, technology infrastructure, and other facilities can continue to support high achievement.
What specific projects would Measure I fund?
If approved by local voters, Measure I would allow WUSD to:
Improve safety and security; fix deteriorating roofs, plumbing, heating/cooling, and electrical systems; pave parking lots; repair old, outdated classrooms and school facilities; purchase a pool cover; update athletic facilities; and to modernize classrooms, science labs, and other facilities that will help prepare students for college and in-demand careers in health sciences, arts, technology, agriculture, and skilled trades.
Why is an additional revenue stream required to upgrade our schools?
In California, public schools receive State funding for operational costs like supporting strong instructional programs and paying teachers, but not enough to pay for capital improvements like fixing deteriorating roofs or updating classrooms, science labs, and instructional technology. All our school facilities were built with bonds, and they need to be updated through this process as well. Prior to COVID-19, the State offered limited funding for some capital improvements, but it required local matching funds. Without Measure I bond funding, we would not have the matching funds to apply for additional State funding, should it become available when the State’s economy improves.
How much will Measure I cost?
The measure would cost property owners a maximum of $40 per $100,000 of assessed value (not market value) per year. Assessed value is determined by the Mendocino County Assessor and is listed on your property tax bill. If, for example, your house is assessed at $250,000, your overall annual bill would be $100 (that’s about $8 per month).
Note: By law, WUSD cannot offer a senior exemption for Measure I. However, the cost of the measure is based on the assessed value of a person’s property, which is different from market value. The assessed value is based on the original purchase price of a home, which is often much lower for those who have lived in their homes for a long time.
Would all funds stay local to improve WUSD schools?
Yes. All funds would go directly toward improving our schools. The funds cannot be taken away by the State or other school districts.
How do we know funds from Measure I would be spent responsibly?
Measure I includes strict fiscal accountability provisions to ensure that all funds are spent as voters intended. A clear system of accountability is required, including a detailed project list, a Citizens' Oversight Committee, and independent audits to ensure all funds are spent properly.
How is the independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee formed, and who selects the members?
By California law, a school district has 60 days from the passage of a bond measure to form the committee. It must be made up of seven volunteer members who serve a term of two years each. Composition of the committee must include representatives from the business community, a senior organization, and a taxpayer organization, as well as parents with children in the district. In addition, no employee or vendor of the District can be a member of the committee.
Are there other options to maintain and improve our schools?
Our district has very few options when it comes to making necessary upgrades. We can’t rely on the State to complete these repairs, and redirecting funds in the current budget would take resources out of our classrooms and away from our students.
Measure I would provide the local funding needed to maintain and update school facilities to ensure we can continue to provide a safe, modern learning environment for our students.
Can the bond funding help Willits schools when the State defers regular funding?
Yes, right now the State has threatened to defer payments. That is, the State has told districts it will pay them later, when fund become available, forcing some schools districts to borrow money to make payroll. Measure I funding would help WUSD bridge the gap so the district would not have to incur the cost of debt.
Would projects from Measure I be environmentally sustainable?
Yes, absolutely. As part of planned improvements, WUSD would replace inefficient heating, cooling, lighting and water systems to conserve resources and save money on utility bills. These savings can be used to support classroom instruction. Updated systems would also increase energy efficiency, save water, and make our district more environmentally friendly.
When will I be able to vote on Measure I?
The WUSD Board of Trustees has voted to place Measure I on the November 3, 2020 ballot. All registered voters in Willits Unified School District are eligible to vote on the measure.
What level of support does Measure I need to pass?
Measure I needs to be supported by 55 percent of the vote in order to pass.
How can I register to vote or learn more about voting?
You can register to vote at www.registertovote.ca.gov. To find out more about voting in this election, please contact the Mendocino County Registrar of Voters at 707-234-6819 or visit https://www.fvap.gov/california. Eligible residents may also register at DMV 15 days prior to the election.
How can I learn more about our schools?
We welcome your input as we work to ensure our schools have the resources they need to provide an excellent education. Please visit www.willitsunified.com for more information.
What’s the difference between parcel taxes and bond measures?
Bond measures and parcel tax measures are used for different purposes — bond measures such as Measure I can only fund facility upgrades and improvements and cannot be used for operating costs or programs. Parcel taxes may be used for teacher salaries and programs. The district is not able to ask for sales tax.