SCUSD to go to Voters for $720 Million Bond Measure in November

By Robert Haugh

The Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) Board decided Tuesday night to put a $720 million bond measure on the November ballot.

It’ll be the 4th bond measure in the last 14 years for the District.  Here are the previous ones:

  • $419 million bond in 2014,
  • $81.1 million bond in 2010, and
  • $315 million bond in 2004.

So, the district has raised over $815 million since 2004. And they want to almost double that this year.  Wow. But they’ll have some opposition from Santa Clara Plays Fair (SCPF).

Here’s an early preview of some arguments SCPF will raise:

The 75-word ballot statement states that taxpayers will pay “5 cents per $100 of assessed value”; this  is written to make taxpayers ‘do the math’ to figure out how much they will pay in additional property taxes.  We’ve done the math for you, showing how much you will pay per year based on your assessed value (5 cents per $100 equals $50 per $100,000), and how much you will pay in total over 32 years.

That’s the first time we’ve seen a assessed value for a bond measure use cents in an official ballot statement. Usually it’s dollars. It looks kinda deceptive.

Here’s another argument from SCPF:

The $720 million bond measure language Includes a list of possible projects which “may” be completed with the bond money. There are no guarantees that any particular project on the list will be completed.  Many people thought that the last bond measure would pay for a high school at Agnews and for remodeling of Patrick Henry School to relieve overcrowding at Laurelwood. Please note that promises made in campaign mailers promoting the bond are not legally binding.

We’re wondering if disgraced former Councilman Dominic Caserta sues SCUSD, will they have to increase the bond amount. Just kidding … we hope not.

This should be an interesting campaign and we’ll be writing more about it in the coming weeks.


  1. Yes, it is bad enough some people see a bond measure and don’t make the immediate connection to increased taxes to pay for it. It is like buying something with a credit card and ignoring that you will have to pay for that.
    If this passes, we will have to pay not just the $720,000,000 but the interest on it.
    And like the teenager that spends all their weekly allowance in two days and asks for more: “Where did the last money I gave you go?”

    • Yes, many people don’t realize that voting ‘yes’ on local bonds means our property taxes will increase to pay for the bonds. Bonds are like a mortgage, in which people pay principal + interest over 30 years.

      If you look at the bond presentation linked to the school board agenda (link below), you will see that the district’s average debt ratio is 2 to 1, so the total amount of the bond triples when the interest and financing are added in. The $720 million bond principal increases to $2.16 billion when the debt service is added.

      Assembly Bill 195 now requires bond measure ballot statements (the 75-word statement voters see on their ballots) to include the tax rate, the amount of money to be raised annually, and the duration of the tax. Prior to AB 195, the school district did not have to include any information about how much taxpayers would pay. Here’s a ballotpedia link which shows the ballot question for the 2014 bond. There’s no mention of how much the bond will add to our property taxes:,_Measure_H_(November_2014)

      Here’s a link to the current list of County measures as of 8/3/18. Scroll down in the list to see what else will be on ballots throughout the county. Looks like many districts are getting advice to write their ballot measures to show the tax rate in cents per hundred dollars, rather than dollars per hundred thousand of assessed value – which makes more sense given the range of housing prices here.

      Here’s the 8/7/2018 SCUSD agenda. Scroll down to see all of the attachments, including the bond resolution and the bond consultant’s presentation:

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