What the Measure Would Do
Proposition A would authorize the San Francisco Board of Education to issue $744,250,000 in general obligation bonds for facilities upgrades and other capital improvements to schools in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). The district plans to dedicate funds to the following purposes:
- $409 million for seismic upgrades and modernization in schools and administration buildings across the city
- $100 million toward construction of the SFUSD Arts Center and the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts, at 135 Van Ness Avenue
- $100 million for technology upgrades to schools (including internet and telecommunications upgrades)
- $100 million for the construction of two new elementary schools (prioritizing the Mission Bay and Bayview neighborhoods)
- $20 million for the district’s student nutrition program
- $5 million for the district’s Green Schoolyards program
- $5 million for energy sustainability upgrades
- $5 million toward the construction of teacher housing
The bond would be backed by a tax levied on property within San Francisco over the estimated 25-year lifetime of the bond. The bond is expected to raise the annual property taxes of the typical homeowner by $15.90 per $100,000 of assessed value.1
Bond expenditures would be monitored by the SFUSD Bond Program Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee, which oversees all of the district’s bond fund spending and reports directly to the public.
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The SFUSD is responsible for overseeing 133 schools and additional school administration facilities in San Francisco. For many years, San Francisco spent less than was needed to maintain these properties, resulting in a significant backlog of projects and increased costs to replace highly degraded facilities. In 2000, the district estimated facility needs were well over a billion dollars, including deferred maintenance.2 This led to a series of funding measures that have come before voters. The previous bond measures — in 2003, 2006 and 2011 — totaled approximately $1.4 billion and have funded modernizations of more than 100 district sites, the replacement of aging modular buildings, seismic and fire safety retrofits, and the construction of the $56 million Willie L. Brown Jr. Middle School.
These previous funding measures have helped SFUSD catch up on its backlog of projects. Now the district’s student population is growing for the first time in a generation. The SFUSD currently includes 57,000 children and projects 7,000 to 14,000 new students by 2028.3 Funding from this bond would continue safety improvements and modernization, contribute to the construction of two new elementary schools and a major new school for the arts, and support programs the district has identified as a priority for 21st-century learning.
SFUSD’s Capital Plan projects $1.55 billion in capital needs over the next 10 years.4 At more than $744 million, this bond would fund a significant share of the district’s capital needs. It would also be one of the biggest bonds ever issued in San Francisco. The district’s staff anticipates returning to voters for another general obligation bond of around $500 million in 2021.
This measure was placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote of the SFUSD School Board and must be on the ballot because it is a funding measure. Under California Prop. 39 (2000), school bonds require 55 percent voter approval to pass.
Regular re-investment in school buildings is necessary to keep them safe, accessible and conducive to learning. The condition of school facilities directly influences the experiences of students, teachers, parents and the community and must regularly evolve to meet changing learning needs. This bond would invest in high-quality learning environments for San Francisco students.
The bond would support the construction of two new schools in the growing southeast neighborhoods of the city and in communities that have been underserved by school resources in the past.
A general obligation bond is an appropriate means to borrow money for these kinds of capital projects, which have long life spans and are too large to pay for out of regular annual revenue.
The SFUSD has successfully implemented three other significant capital bond measures. The Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee has reported positive results from previous bond sales, with projects that have been completed under budget.5
- This bond would be likely to raise the property tax rate in San Francisco. The city has made a commitment for many years that it would only issue new debt as long as the property tax rate could be kept the same. The school district is not part of the same jurisdiction as the city and thus has not been party to that commitment, but voters may not distinguish between the city and the district.
1 The estimated tax that would be required after the sale of the first series of bonds is approximately $9.90 per $100,000 of assessed valuation in fiscal year 2016–2017, growing to $24.90 per $100,000 of assessed valuation in fiscal year 2040–2041.
2 Email communication with SFUSD staff.