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TAX WINDFALL TO AID KERN CAMPUSES.

Byline: KAREN MAESHIRO Staff Writer

ROSAMOND -- A home construction boom fueled a 29 percent jump in assessed property values in less than a year in the Southern Kern Unified School District, making money available sooner than expected to expand Rosamond High School's cafeteria and pay off debt.

Assessed value of properties within the district values jumped from $775 million last December to more than $1 billion for the 2006-07 tax year, allowing Southern Kern to sell $3.8 million in additional construction bonds six years ahead of schedule.

``The time frame is to get the (property tax) money toward the end of October,'' trustee Olaf Landsgaard said. ``We can pay off a lot of debt. Another thing is to get some more improvements to the high school cafeteria.''

Rosamond High School was built in 1965 and its cafeteria was built to hold a maximum of 125 students. The school's current enrollment stands at 900.

``They have to do two lunch shifts. Still, it's very crowded,'' said Charlene Melchers, the district's chief business officer.

When the bond was passed, the district had planned to stretch bond sales over a period of 10 years, with the last bond sale scheduled for 2012.

``Because assessed valuation has gone up, it allows us to sell the last series of bonds this fall,'' Melchers said. ``People who are paying tax assessments, they are not paying any more than what we had guaranteed in the bond measure. It allows the district to sell bonds earlier at a better interest rate for homeowners and allows the district to follow through with obligations that we made to property owners when they passed the bond.''

The 29 percent increase in assessed valuation is the latest in a string of increases over the last two years, officials said. From June 2004 to June 2005, the amount increased 8.3 percent; from June 2005 to December 2005, it went up another 12.3 percent, Melchers said.

``It's basically housing construction. There's quite a bit. We have several tracts that are now open and homes are for sale,'' Melchers said.

Kern County building officials said Rosamond is experiencing its own building boom after lagging behind the boom that started several years ago in Lancaster and Palmdale, where land costs and government fees are higher and where officials have seen signs of a home-construction slowdown in recent months.

``With the four tracts they have going on right now, it's obvious there's a huge boom in Rosamond,'' said Robert Sawyer, Kern County's principal building inspector. ``Four developers have tracts recorded and developing at the same time.''

Rosamond Community Services District officials expect 700 homes to be built in the area this fiscal year, based on permits issued for water connections.

Prior to 2003, the number of homes and businesses connected to the district's water system grew about 4 percent a year. Then in 2004, it went to 7 percent. This year, it's 12 percent, said Bob Neufeld, services district interim general manager. ``Next fiscal year, we are expecting a similar increase.''

Southern Kern voters approved a $12 million bond measure in November 2002 to help pay for the building of Westpark Elementary School, pay off debt incurred to build and improve schools to meet demands of a booming enrollment in the early 1990s, expand Rosamond High's cafeteria, and install Internet lines and upgrade computers at schools.

More homes and higher values helped Southern Kern to build another wing of classrooms at Westpark Elementary School earlier than scheduled.

The $11.3 million campus opened this year and was Rosamond's first new school in more than 40 years.

The eight-classroom wing was omitted when school construction started in 2003 because there was not enough tax revenue to pay for it, but higher assessments led to the selling of additional construction bonds earlier than expected.

karen.maeshiro@dailynews.com

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 24, 2006
Words:644
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