By ROBERT DIGITALE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Five of seven school bond measures in Sonoma County easily won approval Tuesday, but the fate of measures sought by the Cloverdale and Piner-Olivet districts will hinge on the outcome of mail-in votes still to be counted.
With all precincts reporting, the Sonoma Valley school district’s $40 million bond, Measure H, had received approval from 67 percent of voters.
“People realize that if we want to have quality schools, we have to raise the money locally,” said Sonoma Valley board President Helen Marsh.
In other results, the “yes” votes totaled 66 percent for the $23.8 million West Sonoma County high school district bond, Measure I; 63 percent for the $11 million Twin Hills bond, Measure M; 63 percent for the $10.6 million Bennett Valley bond, Measure J; and 65 percent for the $5.1 million Forestville bond, Measure K.
“It’s fantastic to be part of a community that shows so much support for its schools,” said West County Superintendent Keller McDonald.
The fate of two bond measures was uncertain Wednesday. The $17 million Cloverdale bond, Measure G, was supported by 55.2 percent of voters, a mere seven votes more than the 55 percent threshold needed for passage. The $20 million Piner-Olivet bond, Measure L, was supported by 53.7 percent of voters, just short of the number needed for approval. Mail-in votes still to be counted could change the totals for both measures.
“We are just really hopeful that it comes through,” said Piner-Olivet board President Lisa Anderson.
The elections come as educators warn that schools are facing the greatest financial strain in generations. But the bond money can’t be used for salaries or to run school programs. The funds are restricted to facility improvements.
Even so, school officials said the money is badly needed to improve student learning. Marsh said by going solar, Sonoma Valley will save $1 million through rebates and lower energy bills. That will spare the district from major program cuts.
Six of the seven districts want to install solar panels to cut energy bills. West Sonoma also hopes to add a library at Analy High and a performing arts center at El Molino High. Both schools also would install artificial turf on their athletic fields.