This is the big one, the whopper, numero uno.
A huge $409 million bond package presented by officials of the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District is believed to be the largest such proposal by a public elementary or high school district in San Mateo County history, according to available records.
Measure T, if it is given the OK by at least 55% of the voters Nov. 3, would provide a range of equipment purchases, campus enhancements, new construction and other important capital improvements (some of them caused by requirements induced by the ongoing pandemic) for the 22-school district and its 11,576 students (2019-20 listed total as reported by the state Department of Education).
If approved, the bonds would amount to an average of $18.59 million in available spending per school site.
If fees and interest are included in the package, the total debt service has been tabbed at $847 million by the district. That would escalate anticipated future costs to an average total expense of $38.5 million for each district campus.
A published analysis indicates that a San Mateo or Foster City home with an assessed value of $1 million would be taxed $300 per year for 30 years.
The timing of the massive fiscal request (not to mention its sheer size and scope) is something of a gamble because it comes during a period of severe economic uncertainty/unemployment due to the pandemic.
On the plus side, historically and persistently low interest rates are making borrowing costs more favorable for the district and its taxpayers.
Measure T follows in the bold footsteps of its neighboring academic entity, the San Mateo Union High School District, which successfully passed its own mega-bond just seven months ago.
Wisely, authorities in the two districts made sure their hefty bond measures were not competing on the same ballot.
The high school district’s Measure L was approved in March (just prior to the pandemic lockdown) by 57% of the electorate. Like the current Measure T, it needed a 55% yes vote to pass.
Measure L provides the high school district with $385 million. Its full cost, including interest and fees, will amount to an estimated $815 million. The owner of a district home with an assessed value of $1 million will pay just over $150 per year for 30 years.
Combined, if Measure T gets the go-ahead next month, the two bond packages, funded by many of the same taxpayers in San Mateo and Foster City, will amount to $794 million, with all related costs bringing the grand total to more than $1.6 billion.
A logical Coastside newspaper acquisition
It appears to make logical sense, even during a period of much print media uncertainty and justifiable angst.
The local ownership of the Half Moon Bay Review, with the backing of new investors from Pacifica to the north, has purchased the Pacifica Tribune and intends to maintain those news/advertising operations to serve customers along the full length of the San Mateo County Highway 1 corridor all the way south to the Santa Cruz County border.
In a statement announcing last week’s purchase, the Review’s ownership, the Coastside News Group, Inc., noted that layoffs were not anticipated at either publication. A sale price was not made public.
Both newspapers are paid print weeklies; the Review adds a helpful online version but the Tribune’s weak web presence is in dire need of an upgrade. The Review was founded in 1898; at 122, it is the oldest newspaper in San Mateo County. The Tribune is nearly 90.
The Tribune has gone through several owners since the late 1990s. Arguably, the period of its most significant growth, profitability and influence occurred during the tenure of the late editor/publisher — and tireless civic booster — Bill Drake from 1959 to 1989.
Most recently, it has been the property of Sherman R. Fredrick and his Battle Born Media which also owns newspapers in Marin County and Nevada.
The Review was purchased by Coastside private investors from Wick Communications, an Arizona-based chain, in 2017. For the last year or so, a number of key Pacificans had been urging the Review to increase its presence in, and coverage of, their community.
Now, they are getting their wish.
Contact John Horgan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.