Proposition A: $744 Million Bond for S.F. Schools

This bond measure would provide up to $744.25 million to build new schools and an arts center; rehabilitate and modernize other school facilities; upgrade information technology; create “green” school yards, and construct affordable housing for teachers and other school workers.

This would be larger than each of three other bond issues passed by the district since 2003.

If passed, it would raise property taxes.

The San Francisco Board of Education voted 7-0 to put this initiative on the ballot.

Why is this on the ballot?

The San Francisco Unified School District owns or leases more than 160 schools and sites, and uses bond measures as a primary source of funding for regular upgrades, modernization and school construction. This bond offering targets 46 schools, plus other district sites.

Proposition A’s proponents, the Board of Education for the San Francisco Unified School District, argue that the district needs regular funding for upkeep of schools and to build facilities to address a growing student population. But the measure’s opponent argues that the district is proving to be a repeated drain on taxpayer dollars, and that, despite specific projects outlined in the ballot language, there are no guarantees on exactly how the bond money would be spent.

In 2003, 2006 and 2011, bond measures were approved with increasing amounts of $295 million, $450 million and $531 million, respectively — a total of nearly $1.28 billion.

The 2016 bond seeks $744.25 million and targets the same improvements designated in previous bond issues. It would fund upgrades at additional schools not addressed by previous funding, and some schools that were but need added attention. Some of the sites that would be improved have not seen significant upgrades in over 15 years. It also would partially fund the construction of two or three new schools, including an arts center.

Matt Haney, President of the Board of Education, says that even if the 2016 bond measure were to pass, he expects that the district would need to consider another bond in the next five years. He says it is very common for districts to come back and fund these improvements, modernization and construction needs on a regular basis.

“As a major urban district, we have many school buildings, which is why we are required to come back on a regular, staggered basis to meet the needs of buildings and students,” he says. “Smaller districts might not have to come back as often.”

By state law, the district may use bond measure funds only for maintenance, upgrades and new construction of district buildings. Funds may not be used for teacher or administrator salaries or operating expenses. The district says no state matching funds would be needed to complete any of the projects.

The first series of bonds would be issued in fiscal year 2017-2018, which will begin July 1, and the final bonds would be issued in fiscal year 2020-2021. All bonds would be retired within 20 years.

What would it do and at what cost?

Amount Purpose
*$409,250,000 Construction, reconstruction and improvement: Upgrades to athletic areas, as well as to common spaces; seismic and safety upgrades; improved accessibility for people with disabilities; design modernizations, additions and expansions.
*$100,000,000 Building schools: The district intends to build two new schools in the Mission Bay and Bayview/Candlestick Point neighborhoods, but the bond measure does not guarantee those locations.
*$100,000,000 Technology upgrades: Improvements to information technology infrastructure, including internet connectivity and classroom tools.
**$100,000,000 Construction of an arts center at Van Ness Avenue and Fell Street: Creation of a district arts center at this SFUSD property.
*$20,000,000 Modernizing kitchens: Includes improvements to kitchen equipment, cafeterias and dining spaces to better school meals.
*$5,000,000 Green school yards: More funding for the Green School Yards program, which creates outdoor classrooms or replaces asphalt areas with trees, plants, ponds or gardens.
*$5,000,000 Energy sustainability: Projects that seek to conserve natural resources by incorporating sustainable materials and products in construction or improvement sites.
**$5,000,000 Affordable housing for teachers: Construction of below-market-rate housing for teachers or other education professionals working for the district.

* Amount that would be spent on this item, estimated by Board of Education.
** Limit of amount of funds from the bond measure that could be used for this purpose.


The city controller estimates Proposition A would cause property taxes to rise by varying annual amounts between fiscal years 2017-2018, when the bonds would be issued, and 2040-2041, when the bonds would be paid off. The average annual tax rise would likely be $15.90 per $100,000 of assessed property value, or about $161 for a $1.1 million home — the median home price in San Francisco, according to real estate site Zillow.

If all bonds are issued and sold, the “best estimate” of total debt service, including principal and interest, would be $1.21 billion, according to the Board of Education.

Controller: “These estimates are based on projections only, which are not binding upon the City. Projections and estimates may vary due to the timing of bond sales, the amount of bonds sold at each sale, and actual assessed valuation over the term of repayment of the bonds. Hence, the actual tax rate and the years in which such rates are applicable may vary from those estimated above.”

Who officially proposed it?

The Board of Education of the San Francisco Unified School District.

Who officially opposes it?

The Libertarian Party of San Francisco.

Vote threshold to pass

55 percent.

Effective date if passed

Fiscal year 2017-2018.

Follow the money

One committee is spending money in support of Proposition A: “Great Schools for All with support from parents, Phil Halperin, teachers, and thousands of San Franciscans who support their public schools – Yes on A.”

Follow the money at the San Francisco Ethics Commission: all Proposition A filings.

Our coverage

$744 Million Bond Would Upgrade S.F. Schools — But It Won’t Be the Last — Nov. 3, 2016
– Nadia Mishkin

Endorsements: our methodology

The Public Press chose to count endorsements from organizations that backed multiple candidates or ballot measures, and that made those endorsements available online. We did not count endorsements from individuals.

If you think we missed an important organization, please tell us. We’d love to hear from you.

Tracked endorsements by organization

Written by: Nadia Mishkin and Noah Arroyo

Published: Sept. 30, 2016

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