Local school districts approve of Prop 51 but critics say it's a tax burden

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Prop 51 would give school districts much-needed money for improvements but critics say it's a way for developers to avoid paying the fees for school construction projects because those fees are, instead, put on taxpayers. (KFSN)

On November 8, many school districts across California will be rooting for Proposition 51 to pass. Critics, though, said the new initiative isn't what it seems.

Prop 51 would bring millions of dollars to local school districts to help them with infrastructure improvements like new roofs or air conditioning, but some people in the Valley said the money would be an unfair burden for taxpayers.

Kingsburg Elementary Unified superintendent Wes Sever said the district does its best to set aside money to keep this nearly 80-year-old school up to standards for students.

"When a facility has been built in the 1930s, it's limited on electrical and Wi-Fi," he explained. "In fact, it was originally built with one socket per classroom and so just imagine a classroom with six computers and let alone 24 laptops."

Officials have made adjustments by running electrical wires along the walls to add a few additional outlets. The first-graders who attend Roosevelt Elementary School just got a newly remodeled bathroom but that renovation cost more than $200,000, a big chunk of the district's $20 million total budget.

Sever said there just isn't enough room to make all the upgrades they'd like.

"Proposition 51 will definitely help us increase the health safety and renovate aging facilities," he said.

Kingsburg Unified could get more than $10 million towards repairs if Prop 51 is passed. However, Chris Mathys with the Valley Taxpayers Coalition said the initiative is misleading.

"This was put together by rich donors," he said. "It was forced on the ballot with signatures it was not voted on by the legislature. When that happens you have to question yourself why is it on a ballot?"

Mathys said Prop 51 is a way for developers to avoid paying the fees for school construction projects because those fees are, instead, put on taxpayers. Plus, he said the projects will be decided by the state, not locally.

"You always have to worry when a progressive governor like (Jerry) Brown and that same person is against this," Mathys said.

Critics also said the money from Prop 51 may benefit wealthier school districts more than ones that have the most needs. The Kingsburg Elementary School District though is relying on that money to bring their classrooms into the 21st century.

Related Topics:
politicspoliticsfresno countyeducationtaxesKingsburg
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