Poway Unified parents want answers about who gets a seat at new school

by Joanne Faryon | inewsource

The Poway Unified School Board faced some tough questions from parents at a meeting Tuesday night about how their Mello-Roos tax dollars are being spent. As inewsource reported earlier this week, dozens of families were told their kids can’t attend a new school in their neighborhood because they didn’t pay for it.

The kindergarten-to-8th grade school is under construction in the 4S Ranch area, north of Rancho Penasquitos. It’s being built with Mello-Roos funds – extra property taxes homeowners in newer developments pay for infrastructure. The school district is only allocating seats in the new school to families whose Mello-Roos dollars paid for the construction.

Patricia Navarro lives across the street from Design39Campus.  She has three school-aged kids and like many other parents in her neighborhood, was told her kids can’t attend.

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“I was flabbergasted. I live right across the street. We’ve been paying Mello-Roos,” Navarro said, adding her extra tax bill is about $1,000 a year.

School district officials told Navarro her Mello-Roos taxes helped pay for a different middle school and a high school.
The school board stood by its attendance policy but agreed to continue the conversation about who should be allowed to attend the school.

The board also approved issuing $40 million in municipal bonds to cover the remaining costs of Design39’s construction. The district is pooling surplus Mello-Roos taxes from several Poway Unified neighborhoods to guarantee the bonds, raising more questions about whether those neighborhoods should also be allocated seats in the new school.

Patrick Duggan lives about a mile from Design 39. His kids can’t go to the new school either, but his Mello-Roos taxes are being used as collateral for the bonds.

“I should imagine if it comes down to a legal argument, that the funds are being used and they’re being procured to acquire the debt, then we should be allowed to go the school,” Duggan said.

Duggan said he plans to speak to some of his neighbors about what to do next, including whether to take legal action.

District officials said the Mello-Roos funds from Duggan’s neighborhood aren’t likely to be needed to make interest payments on the bonds. And even if they were, they account for a small percentage of the Mello-Roos taxes used to secure the bonds. So small, Duggan’t entire neighborhood of about 60 houses would only be allocated one seat in the new school.

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About Joanne Faryon:

Joanne Faryon is a freelance reporter and former inewsource and KPBS reporter.