Uncertainty looms about whether the Millbrae Elementary School District will be allowed to place a $90 million bond measure on the upcoming gubernatorial recall election slated for Sept. 14, further postponing necessary campus improvements.
“There have been a lot of twists and turns. This is not a normal election in any way, shape or form,” attorney William Tunick said during a special meeting of the Millbrae Elementary School District Board of Trustees Saturday, July 3. “There’s continuing to be more uncertainty, maybe a bit more than there was earlier this week which is unfortunate.”
Seeking to improve aging campus infrastructure, the Millbrae Elementary School District has been pursuing a bond measure that would fund projects across its five campuses. The Board of Trustees previously considered placing a $87 million bond measure on the ballot Nov. 3, 2020, but ultimately postponed.
Given increased property values, the measure has increased by $3 million and would require 55% approval to pass. During a Tuesday, June 29, Board of Trustees meeting the district discussed the bond measure and was presented with favorable survey data of more than 300 respondents, Trustee Frank Barbaro said in an interview.
“It was good news that they have a lot of faith in the district and schools,” said Barbaro, who stressed the importance of improving the district’s “antiquated” facilities. “That was really welcoming.”
A similar survey was conducted in 2020 which presented results only slightly less favorable than the updated survey, Superintendent Debbie French said.
But trustees were unable to vote on whether to place the measure on the ballot because the date of the recall election had not yet been called by Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis.
Once the announcement was made Thursday evening, setting the election for Sept. 14, the district scheduled its special meeting for that following Saturday to allow for a vote. Following counsel recommendation, trustees unanimously supported moving forward with efforts to put the bond measure on the September ballot.
“This has been a fast and furious process since Thursday,” French said during the special meeting.
Still, it’s unclear whether the measure will go forward following the recent approval of Senate Bill 152, which institutes changes around consolidating elections including requiring the special election to have been called by June 15.
California Secretary of State Shirley Weber doubled down on the specific requirements for consolidating the elections in an advisory issued to local election officials on Friday, July 3.
“Unfortunately it’s not as straightforward as we had been led to believe last speaking with the county,” Tunick said.
Assistant Chief Elections Officer Jim Irizarry said the timeline could only be altered, allowing the races to be consolidated, through legislative changes to SB 152 or through the courts. He noted the Elections Office is working on a “tight timeline” in preparing the Sept. 14 ballots which must be mailed no later than 29 days before the election.
“At this juncture, I do not foresee any legislative action that will permit a consolidated election,” Irizarry said in an email. “Statewide, registrars of voters barely have enough time under the current timelines to construct the official ballot and mail it out by August 16, 2021.”
Because the district is proposing a Proposition 39 bond measure that would pass with 55% of the vote, California law prohibits the district from calling a special election for the bond, according to school district counsel. If not listed on the recall election ballot, the next time district residents could see the bond would be during the general election in June of 2022.
Next, the board will reconvene on Wednesday, July 7, to receive an update on filing the bond measure before entering a closed session.
“If it gets on the ballot it does and, if it’s not, we continue that conversation for 2022,” Trustee Maggie Musa said during Saturday’s meeting. “We all here as trustees are in agreement that we know that we need this bond. We know that we have these issues we need to fix.”
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