Morgan Hill Unified School District $900M Bond Issue – Measure I

Eight years ago, Morgan Hill Unified School District won from voters a $198,250,000 tax bond to:

  1. Improve student access to computers and modern technology
  2. Upgrade old…heating/cooling systems
  3. Upgrade old classrooms
  4. Upgrade fire safety
  5. Enhance energy efficiency

Now, just 8 years later, they want to borrow 4.5 times that much to:

  1. Improve student access to computers and modern technology
  2. Upgrade old…heating/cooling systems
  3. Upgrade old classrooms
  4. Upgrade fire safety
  5. Enhance energy efficiency

Would you take out a 25- to 30-year loan to buy a personal computer that will be obsolete in 4-5 years?  Sounds nuts, right?  But that is what the District wants to do…again!

If you vote for this, don’t be surprised if the District returns in 2028 asking for $4.5 billion to redo everything above, again, at 5 times the cost —while we will still be paying down the 2012 bond debt.  In fact, your grandchildren will likely wind up making interest  payments on them as well.

Education Data Partnership ( shows District enrollment of at least 9,133 students (2017–18), down from at least 9,620 students in 2012, which makes this bond cost $98,543 per student — not counting interest (at rates up to 12%) — versus the $20,608 debt per student  in 2012.

That is nearly 5 times what it cost in 2012. Five times!

Using debt to buy technology that will be obsolete in 4-5 years is bad financial policy.

Just say NO to bad financial policy: Vote No on Measure I.

Approving this tax bond would reward bad behavior.   Parents know that rewarding bad behavior just gets you more bad behavior.  That’s nuts!

Vote NO to send District trustees this clear message:  We expect you to secure children’s essential educational needs in your regular budget.



A NO vote is also endorsed by:

The Libertarian Party of Santa Clara County

Rene Spring, Morgan Hill City Council Member

David Gerard - David served as an MHUSD governing board member from 2014-2018. He holds the Ph.D. in psychology and has conducted research into bi-cultural high school students and their career plans. As a school board member he was appointed by the Board as their representative on the 2017 Facilities Review Committee. David is a parent of two sons and has resided in Morgan Hill since 1993.

Patricia Gomez, retired public school teacher

William Carlson, Morgan Hill resident

Steve Ludewig, San Martin resident

Morgan Hill Times Newspaper

Measure I - $900,000,000 MHUSD Bond Measure – A critical review

by CFO Stuart Phillips

I have spent a few hours reviewing the MHUSD Master Facilities Plan.  There some very interesting things to glean from it.  The document references not only where the school district wants to go but also where it came from, in economic terms.  This review will take the same perspective.  All page references are to the document Morgan Hill Unified School District Facilities Master Plan September 2017 (“FMP”).

In 2012 Measure G was approved by taxpayers.  It was a $198 Million MHUSD bond measure.   As of the publication of the FMP, $143 Million of the $198 Million had not been spent (page 189).  They committed $50 Million to Britton Middle School and $93 Million remained available for FMP projects (page 189).

In the Master Plan Cost Summary (pages 180-182) you will see that there was a combined $6.4 Million for the two middles schools for ‘Modernize / Reconfigure Existing Classrooms’ and zero dollars for ‘New Construction (Classrooms)’.  No spending on new classrooms seemed appropriate given the FMP 11-year projection of enrollment in our middle schools shows an 11 student decline (page 18).

The Master Plan Cost Summary (page 181) shows a total budget for Britton Middle School of $28.8 Million but as referenced above, the district committed $50 to Britton.  If you drive by Britton it is clear to see that they added a second floor of classrooms to the existing buildings and several new buildings which likely have some classrooms in them.

QUESTION 1: Why did the district deviate from its own plan by tens of millions of dollars over the FMP to build new classrooms at Britton when enrollment projections and their own plan says they were not needed?

Understanding that they misspent millions from the 2012 bond measure, is the current request for another $900 Million a reasonable number?  The total dollars needed per the FMP to do everything on their wish list is $699,841,000 (page 182).   However, that includes $28.8 Million for Britton that was paid for by the previous bond measure.  Assuming they paid for nothing else from the FMP, the remaining cost to do 100% of what they are asking for in the FMP is $671 Million.  The bond measure is for jut these items, not teacher salaries.

QUESTION 2: Why is the district asking for $229 Million more money than they need to do 100% of the FMP?

Before we can answer that question, we need to determine if there are other funds that might be available to pay the $671 Million FMP wish list.  There was still $93 Million from the 2012 measure that were available for this project (page 182).   There is another $31.4 Million identified from a statewide school bond initiative Prop 51 (page 187).  Subtract those two amounts from the revised $671 Million and you get an unfilled need of $546.7 Million to do 100% of the items on the FMP. 

Asking for $900 million is the equivalent of your child coming to you and asking for money to buy a book for school.  On Amazon the book, after discounts and credits plus tax and shipping is $54.67.  When you go to check out Amazon asks you for $90.00.  You would never pay that, yet the school district is trying to sell you 10 million copies of that book with the identical economics with one exception.  They are going to have you put it on their credit card so it will cost you $150.00 with interest.   Yes, at the interest rate they are currently paying on the previous bonds, this will cost close to $1.5 BILLION!

QUESTION 3: To revise question 2, Why is the district asking for $443 Million more money than they need to do 100% of the projects in the FMP?

At this point we have identified that this bond measure calls for $353 Million more that the district needs to do 100% of the projects on the FMP without asking if all the expenditures are sound investments.

The plan calls for $59,933,000 for Sobrato High School, a school in just its 15th year.  That works out to $4 Million per year of operation for repairs and improvements.  At an inflation rate of 4% annually, the school will need $108 Million 15 years from now.  No new construction for classrooms for this campus.  

QUESTION 4: Is this sound planning, building and operating of a new school that needed repairs and improvements grow at a rate of $4 Million per year in today’s dollars?  If so, why are we being asked to finance this need with 30-year bonds when the value is expiring in 15 years?

The FMP calls for almost $18 Million for new classrooms and $5.3 Million to Modernize/Reconfigure Existing classrooms at Live Oak High School (page 181) when high school enrollment is project to drop slightly in the 11-year between the enrollment projection between the 2016/2017 number and the 2026/2027 number.  That is just part of a $133.7 Million dollar expenditure for this campus.  Of that just $270,000 is for Technology Infrastructure & Equipment. 

Question 5: Why are they spending on new classrooms when their own projection says negative growth in high school enrollment?

When you review the entire FMP you see only $2.7 Million going to Technology Infrastructure & Equipment plus $10 Million for Technology - Student Devices.  That’s just $12.7 Million from a $700 Million wish list or 1.9% (page182).

QUESTION 6: Where is the commitment to technology that they keep touting?

In the FMP are expenditures totaling $90 Million for two new sites.  The 11-year enrollment projection does show a projected increase in elementary students of 222 over that period.  However, among all our current elementary schools the average enrollment is 510 (page 18).  To our existing schools the FMP calls for $105 Million in New Construction (Classrooms).

QUESTION 7:  Why do we need two new schools to accommodate a need well less than half the average enrollment of one of our current elementary schools on top of new classrooms for seven of our current elementary schools?

None of this bond money is for attracting and retaining quality teachers.  However, there is $9.1 Million to again upgrade the District Office as well as an alternate plan not included in the $700 Million total for a new District Office of $16.4 Million.  All of this while the districts Math and English scores are woefully bad.

QUESTION 8: Why should voters approve a bond measure for hundreds of millions of dollars more than the district itself claims it needs when test scores are not improving, enrollment is flat and the key performance indicator for student success are not being addressed?


To sum up. 

  • ·        The district misspent tens of million of dollars on new classrooms at Britton despite their own master plan showing no need and the plan including no dollars for new classrooms. 
  • ·        The bond measure is hundreds of millions of dollars more than the cost to fund 100% of the FMP if no funds were available and nothing had been paid for yet. 
  • ·        When you remove the costs from the FMP for projects that are already paid for and subtract for funds identified as available in that very same FMP, the bond measure is $353 Million more than the need.
  • ·        Test scores in Math and English have been well below standard for many years without improvement.

Any way you look at this, the bond measure is wildly abusive to the taxpayers.  Even if you agreed with 100% of what they wanted in the master plan, the need is still less than $550 Million after subtracting items already paid for and monies they have available identified in their own master plan.  Asking for $900 Million is hoping the voting public is too stupid to look at the facts.  As stated in the intro above, 100% come from the district's own master plan document!

We must vote NO.  Make the school board prove they have even the most basic understanding of their own numbers, they can be good stewards of the dollars we provide them and that they can address the failing test scores in Math and English.  Anything less is begging them to keep reaching into our pockets and do whatever they like with zero accountability. 

Morgan Hill Times Letter: Tell the whole truth about school bonds

By: submitted

February 26, 2020

The front page article in the Jan. 29 edition of a local publication, “Bond will fix and upgrade schools, facilities for the next 30 years” tells the truth, but not the whole truth. It tells the school district’s side of the $900 MILLION bond measure on the March 3 ballot. 

I received the “County Voter Information Guide” in the mail on Feb. 7. The “Tax Rate Statement” was submitted by Morgan Hill Unified School District Superintendent Steve Betando and appears on page 15. The last sentence of paragraph 1 states, “The final fiscal year in which it is anticipated that the tax will be collected is 2089-2090.” Starting in 2020-2021, that is 69 YEARS of payments. 

Sixty-nine years was not mentioned in the Jan. 29 article. Sixty-nine years shows how huge this debt will be. 

Paragraph 3 of the voter guide states that if all the bonds are sold, the approximate amount to pay them off is $2 BILLION. 

Also, in the middle of the last paragraph of the voter guide it states, “The date of sale and the amount of bonds sold at any given time will be determined by the District based on the need for construction funds and other factors.” It does not say that the money will be metered out over 69 years, or 30 years, or any specific time span. 

The Jan. 29 article states, “During a 30 year period, money will be spent for….” So what is going to happen in the remaining 39 years? In effect, the district is asking for the equivalent of a line of credit for $900 Million to use as they want (as long as it is for facilities or equipment), when they want, and the taxpayer has to pay for it. This is very much like buying a car and signing a contract to make payments for 20 years even though you know you are going to want a new car in 10 years or less.

The County Counsel’s Impartial Analysis of Measure I (page 12 of the County Voter Information Guide) reiterates the district’s statements, but does not give an analysis of the costs of the various projects or their fiscal impact. I had hoped that the Impartial Analysis would give an unbiased opinion, but it refrained from giving any opinion, either supporting or opposing, the district’s conjecture that this bond will help “retain and attract quality teachers.” 

In my opinion, it is ridiculous to think that a teacher would choose a job in Morgan Hill that pays $7,000 to $9,000 dollars less a year than our neighbors to the north simply because the buildings are well maintained and upgraded.

Even though I am a retired public school teacher with over 50 years in the classroom, I oppose this bond measure. I have always wanted what is best for our children and I am sure everybody else does too. 

But this bond is way overpriced and it will not improve our student’s access to quality education. It is going to impose an enormous tax burden on the community. It does not address the problem of staffing those beautifully maintained classrooms with good teachers. The school board can submit a more reasonable measure for the November ballot covering needs for the next 10-15 years. 

Patricia Gomez, Retired Public School Teacher

Morgan Hill

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