CONCORD — The Mt. Diablo school district could save about $150 million in energy costs over 30 years if voters on June 8 approve the $348 million Measure C facilities bond, supporters say.

"Compared to what a parcel tax would provide, it's far and away better," trustee Gary Eberhart said. "Plus, it would retire some short-term debt."

The measure would provide 817 projects costing about $202 million at 53 sites, not including contingencies, price increases and management, according to a facilities plan prepared by Pete Pedersen, assistant superintendent for administrative services. The biggest chunk of money — $68 million — would be spent on 51 solar structures, which are expected to save the district $2.8 million a year in Pacific Gas and Electric bills.

The district would receive about $19 million over five years in energy rebates, Pedersen said. Planned improvements also include a $1 million Web-based irrigation system that would cut water bills by about $240,000 a year, he said.

Besides solar projects, other big-ticket expenditures include $41.6 million for heating and air conditioning, $28.7 million for new classrooms and $20 million for technology improvements. Relatively smaller expenditures would include renovations, lighting, security and maintenance.

The district plans to use $14.3 million in bond money to pay off other bonds and leases, which currently cost about $1.4 million a year.

Some measure opponents say the district should seek a parcel tax instead of a bond measure, which could end up costing taxpayers as much as $1.8 billion over 42 years, exceeding the life span of many improvements. Voters rejected a $99 per-parcel tax last year that would have generated about $7 million annually for five years.

Trustees decided to seek a bond measure in part because it needs 55 percent voter support to pass, compared to about 67 percent for a parcel tax. Roughly 59 percent of voters supported the district's failed parcel tax.

Kris Hunt of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association said it is fiscally irresponsible to put taxpayers on the hook for long-term debt to generate money for annual operating costs.

"That's like buying a sandwich today and then paying it off over 50 years," she said.

Pedersen compiled the project list in April, after trustees voted March 9 to place the measure on the ballot.

He based it on a 2006 facilities assessment created when the district's 2002 Measure C bond program was nearly completed, listing items that were left over.

He added solar and irrigation projects, along with more than $12 million for 10 middle school science labs, at the request of Superintendent Steven Lawrence. The list was not finalized in time to be included in voter materials, but the district posted the lists online, without costs or a plan overview.

El Dorado Middle School in Concord is slated to get $8.9 million for 22 projects including nearly $2.5 million to replace portable buildings, $2.3 million for new heating and air conditioning, $1.2 million for a science lab and $1.1 million for a ground-mounted solar structure. Principal Robert Humphrey said air conditioning and new buildings were the school's top priorities.

Educators were not involved in planning for the labs, but science teacher Matt Kelly said he would appreciate new storage and work stations.

Measure C opponents say the project list was hastily drawn up and did not involve parents or the previous oversight committee. Some principals have asked to change their lists to better reflect school needs.

Pedersen acknowledged he did not have much time to compile the lists, but he insists the upgrades are needed.

Eberhart said the district spent its $250 million 2002 Measure C money wisely and brought in more than $110 million in state matching funds.

"There are a lot of things we can take criticism for," he said, "but the processes we've used to upgrade and modify our schools has been really good."

Mt. DIABLO SCHOOL DISTRICT
BOND MEASURE C
COST OVERVIEW
(Dollar figures rounded up)
  • $69 million: Resource conservation (solar and irrigation).
  • $41.6 million: Heating, air conditioning.
  • $28.7 million: New facilities (including science labs, classrooms).
  • $20 million: Technology systems (including fiber optic, infrastructure).
  • $15.5 million: Electrical systems (lighting, security).
  • $13 million: Building shell (windows, roofs, doors).
  • $10.7 million: Interior finish upgrades (restrooms, floors, food service).
  • $3 million: Site improvements (playgrounds, pavement, fencing).
  • $700,000: Interim housing (temporary facilities).
    SUBTOTAL CONCEPTUAL
    CONSTRUCTION: $202.2 million
    Contingencies, change
    orders, escalation, soft costs: $130.3 million
    TOTAL CONSTRUCTION COSTS: $332.5 million
    Pay off debts from other bonds, lease purchase agreements:
    $14.4 million
    TOTAL BOND EXPENDITURES: $346.9 million
    More information is at www.cocovote.us or www.mdusd.org. Click on "community" and select "2010 Bond Measure C"
    For an analysis of return on investments for solar projects, visit www.ContraCostaTimes.com.
    To see an overview of improvement costs by school and project type, visit the On Assignment blog at www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment.
    The complete 2010 Facilities Improvement Plan, which includes detailed costs by site, is available for public review at the district office, 1936 Carlotta Drive in Concord.