BREAKING: Dublin School Board Approves Negotiations to Acquire Land for Second Comprehensive High School at Special Meeting
Dublin, CA–Cutting to the headline, after six hours of public and closed door deliberations last night, the Dublin Unified School District Board of Trustees has approved moving forward with negotiations to acquire land for a second comprehensive high school. In closed session four sites were eliminated (“Croak”, “Chen”, “Fallon” and “Camp Parks”) and six left on the table (“Di Manto A/B”, “Fallon”, “Murray/Nielsen”, “Promenade”, “SAP”, “Ziess Property”).
On Wednesday evening, the Dublin Unified School District Board of Trustees convened at the District Office to hold a Special Meeting on the myriad of issues that revolve around the subject of constructing a potential second high school campus within the city limits of Dublin. The desire/demand for this project is simply driven by two factors: current enrollment at Dublin High School and the continued residential development and corresponding increase in student enrollment in the foreseeable future. The six hour meeting, which included public and closed door sessions, was lightly attended with only two speakers from the public.
Previous demographic projections provided to DUSD by another firm, consistently under-projected what residential projects would yield in terms of the number of students that would be entering into the school system. Over a year ago, Davis Demographics was then employed to provide a differing perspective into these projections. While the enrollment forecast presented was not startling, it does offer a fascinating peek into the future of Dublin.
In order to gain proper context, it is first necessary to examine the financial aspects of this potential undertaking and to pin them against the financial realities of what it will take to achieve a desirable result. At its basis, the overall desire or motivation to construct a second comprehensive high school in Dublin is based upon the projections of up to 2,000 new students entering the 9th-12th grades over the next seven years. In the absence of adding an additional campus, this would equate to nearly 280 new students adding into the population of DHS every year. At its peak, this would result in a student population of over 4,000 students. The primary challenges to building a new campus are two-fold: sufficient and appropriately zoned land is a precious commodity within city limits, and equally important is the necessary funding required for both land acquisition and construction costs. Until now, the lack of Level 3 developer fees provided by residential builders and the suspension of support from Sacramento for capital school construction funds has led to a “perfect storm” in terms of strangling growing school districts like Dublin.
Once the meeting was convened, Board President Megan Rouse welcomed in Blake Boehm from KNN Public Finance to comment on the fiscal impacts and potential income streams to support a second Dublin high school. Initially, the presentation centered upon the planned issuance schedule for the recently approved Measure H funds. As mapped out, the bulk of the aggregate $283 MM would be issued by a point in 2022 – roughly 89% of the total obligation. As prescribed by KNN, this could be accomplished under the assumption that the $60/$100,000 of assessed home value would be maintained. This stipulation was edified in the original ballot language.
The Board discussion then moved into exploring options relative to alternative financing options (including Bond Anticipation Notes or Certificates of Participation). Additionally, there was discussion about accelerating the issuance schedule of bonds. An issue that seemed to hamper the discussion was the lack of clarity as it related to the allocation of the $15MM in funds to the E-5 Jordan Ranch Project. Further, some trustees raised questions as it related to the devotion of funds relative to the currently earmarked portable classroom project at Dublin High School. The District staff quickly recognized this concern and offered to return with higher detail at a later gathering. As the presentation continued, two scenarios were presented by KNN – one in which there could be a 5% vs. 0% growth in an assessed residential valuation over the next five years. Given the rapid level of residential development in Dublin in recent years, it is probably safe to accept the 5% growth scenario. That said, the presentation outlined a sufficiently optimistic forecast for a surplus bonding capacity over the next several years. What does this mean? It simply illustrates that if home values do not significantly decline in this region, then there is the potential to accelerate bond/construction funds if desired and to thereby direct by the Board of Trustees for the purposes of capital construction.
Subsequently, Superintendent Leslie Boozer welcomed in David Kaitz from Davis Demographics via phone conference. The purpose of the presentation was to offer a “draft” seven-year forecast into residential construction within the city of Dublin. The data and conclusions presented were based upon site visits at all school sites, online research and meetings with City Planning staff. The seven year projection yielded an estimation that over 4,000 residential units will come online – an average of slightly over 607 units per year. As projected, the largest enrollment spike would occur beginning in fall 2017 (@ projected 1,303 students) and ultimately taper off in fall 2023 (@ projected 521 students). However, the gross increase in the number of students into the District over this period would represent an increase of just over 60% over the current population.
Regardless, the Board of Trustees still needs to debate the location of a potential new site for a second high school. To provide context, the most dramatic increase in K-5 enrollment will occur east of Tassajara Road – almost 1,300 students in the next seven years. About 800 new students will enroll into both Wells and Fallon Middle Schools over the same period. In addition, close to 2,000 students will matriculate unimpeded into DHS unless a safety valve is created.
After convening for a closed session that lasted over three hours, the Board briefly returned to open session to announce which sites would be the focus of acquisition negotiations.