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CUSD builds despite hard times
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During difficult budgetary times, I often get questions from the public and employees inquiring how the school district is able to embark on construction projects while contending with challenging operational budgets. There are two answers to this question.

First, the dollars allocated toward construction of new facilities and renovations of existing ones come from a separate source of funding than day-to-day operational expenses. These sources cannot be comingled. In other words, it is illegal to use bond dollars or matching state construction grants on instructional materials or employee salaries.

Second, building addresses long-term needs. The current economic misery will be a memory when the facilities we build now are still being used to provide the housing for a sound education. Our construction projects have timelines imposed by the state. Should we choose not to do these projects, we simply lose the state money. No matter how dire our current operational budget becomes, giving up millions of dollars would be short-sighted and counterproductive for our future.

Ceres Unified is grateful to the community for the trust they imparted on us when Measure U was approved. These bonds have allowed us to build a new junior high school, construct needed additions at Adkison Elementary School, Argus High School, Ceres High School, Central Valley High School, Don Pedro Elementary School, La Rosa Elementary School, Parks Elementary School and White Elementary School. The Measure U funds have been supplemented by millions of dollars of state matching construction grants. We still have $15 million of the original $60 million in bonding authority remaining, but will have to wait to spend that until we have a way to issue the bonds within the limits of allowable taxpayer burden. (A rise in assessed property values would help, but will probably be a long time in coming.)

Perhaps one of the most advantageous parts of this building program is that the district qualified for three more elementary schools, to be paid for out of state financial hardship funding. (This was made possible because of the contribution of our taxpayers to Measure U.) This program will bring over $60 million additional funding into the district for construction. The rules in Sacramento do not allow for delay. Either we build the schools in the next few years, or lose the generous state funding forever. In spite of the challenges we face, it would be foolhardy to turn down these grants and face a future in which we will have to build the schools with, at best, half as much state assistance. In the long term, we will desperately need these schools.

When you see these schools break ground in the coming year, I urge you to consider what a gift they are for our future. Educating our students so they can become productive citizens is among the most critical tasks of society. It is heartening to know that, thanks in no small part to the voters for passing Measure U, Ceres will be well situated to provide facilities for this essential endeavor.