With sample ballots and election materials landing in mailboxes, we want to tell Berkeleyans why we are voting “Yes” on Measures H & I and, why we encourage all residents to join us to protect our community’s investments in our schools and to build for the future.
We are sure Berkeley will agree that good schools bring value not just to students and their families but to the whole community.
“Yes” on Measure H means Berkeley Unified School District can continue to maintain safe district school facilities and grounds with the continuation of a modest parcel tax, a renewal of the same tax at the same rate first approved by Berkeley voters in 2000.
With the continual reduction in state funding for schools, we see districts across the state dismantling maintenance departments and programs, leaving their facilities to an uncertain future. Deferred or no maintenance unintentionally leads to buildings that are no longer safe and even costlier to repair. This budget strategy is penny-wise and pound-foolish. Berkeley must take care of its own investments – these are our public schools and we owe it to our children and youth to keep them safe and sound.
Our school district welcomes 10,000+ students, teachers and employees through their doors each morning. The district operates 100 buildings at 23 different sites and relies on these maintenance tax funds to keep fire safety systems updated, electrical switches and wires up to code, roofs free of leaks, boilers and heating systems functioning properly, while meeting safety standards inside and out.
“Yes” on Measure I means Berkeley Unified can continue to build new, and modernize old, buildings that create safe places to welcome and inspire our children.
The first priority for Measure I funding is the completion of Berkeley High School, where 3,300 of the district’s students attend school each day. New funding is needed to build a fifteen classroom building on Milvia Street allowing the removal of the eleven portables that now fill the softball field.
In order to be a leader in science and career technology education, Berkeley High School must have upgraded science labs and adequate space for specialty programs. Our ability to offer project-based work, essential to career and technology classes, is also limited by our current facilities.
Dining facilities at Longfellow and Willard Middle Schools are inadequate and unpleasant. Students at these schools deserve better.
School playgrounds and physical education facilities need to be refurbished and replaced. District grounds and sport facilities are in perpetual use during the school day and many become centers of community and neighborhood life afterschool and on evenings and weekends. The Derby Street field needs to be completed so it can accommodate more sports teams and activities.
The district’s facilities construction plan accommodates expected growth in the student population, upgrades technology infrastructure that supports the educational needs of today’s students, and builds new and modernizes old facilities. Seismic safety is critical. New bond money will allow this priority to continue. The plan also reduces the carbon footprint of district facilities and the cost of utilities by investing in green and energy efficient systems.
All schools need replacement of major building systems along with replacement of hardscape and landscape over time. For example, of the eleven elementary schools in the district, eight will be due for new roofs and all eleven will need new fire alarm systems in this next decade. New projects include solar electricity and other energy conservation systems to replace expensive and inefficient building systems.
California offers school districts very limited provisions for capital investments. This is why Berkeley voters approved school facilities bonds in 1992 and in 2000 that funded the last two ten-year plans for renewal of our schools. And the State cannot take either Measure H or I funds from Berkeley.
The 1992 facilities bond built new schools at Cragmont, Rosa Parks, Thousand Oaks, and buildings at Longfellow, Berkeley Technology Academy, and Berkeley High. It seismically upgraded and modernized many of the others.
The bond approved in 2000 is dedicated to a wide range of projects including the King Dining Commons, two new preschools, the new energy efficient school bus and transportation facility, classrooms at BHS, solar panels at Washington, as well as the new high school stadium under construction. It funded the modernization of six schools across the city and replaced building systems - roofs, floors, and boiler.
As the money in the current bond becomes exhausted, passage of Measure I will ensure Berkeley Unified the financing to meet school construction needs over the next ten years.
We recognize that these are difficult financial times. Measure H is a renewal of the current maintenance parcel tax at the same rate – it is not a new tax. Measure I was written so that Berkeley property owners will not pay a higher tax than what has been paid in the recent past for all school bonds. Both measures require citizen oversight and independent audits to ensure the transparency and accountability in the expenditure of taxpayer funds.
Investment in safe and improved public school facilities and grounds offers a financial return. Research links school facility bonds to improved home values over time.
The vision behind Measures H and I is that our public schools continue to be valued jewels in our community where current and future students and staff, preschool to adult school, are housed in safe, handsome buildings and grounds that support the pursuit of academic and personal excellence.
We invite you to join us in this vision. Vote Yes on H&I!
Cathy Campbell, President, Berkeley Federation of Teachers
Karen Hemphill, President, Berkeley School Board
William Huyett, Superintendent, Berkeley Schools
Eric Weaver, Berkeley Community Member & BUSD Parent Emeritus