District to get land for school

cpride@losbanosenterprise.comFebruary 21, 2014 

School officials secured the land for Los Banos’ next elementary school last week.

The Los Banos Unified School District Board of Trustees unanimously voted to buy 7.95 acres of land near Place Road and Las Palmas Street from Ranchwood LLC. The land will cost the district $90,000 per acre, totaling $715,500. The money will be paid by Ranchwood through funding the developer owes the school district in impact fees on homes built in the 1990s.

The district opened its eighth elementary school in 2013 and is not in dire need of another one. However, the purchase of the land allows the district to do some long-range planning for expected facilities needs in 2019. School construction funding from the state is largely based on how far a district is in the process.

“We will be able to get in line in Sacramento for future state funding immediately, which is a great thing,” Superintendent Steve Tietjen said.

He said the property will be leased back to Ranchwood for farming since a school will not be built for years.

“We will be able to avoid having to till the property ourselves to control weeds,” Tietjen said.

When the school is built, a traffic light will be necessary at the intersection of B Street and Place Road, Tietjen said.

Trustee Tommy Jones said he wants the district to have discussions with the city regarding a traffic study and who would be financially responsible for a signal. Tietjen said building developer fees will pay the bill.

“School district’s aren’t funded for lights,” he said. “Typically, it’s paid for through developers who are creating the impact.”

School board president Andree Soares said the foundation for being able to afford the property began a decade ago when Ranchwood owner Greg Hostetler signed a mitigation agreement with the district.

“We were able to exercise a mechanism that we put in place in that agreement where we ended up getting property, and we don’t have any cash out of pocket,” Soares said. “The developer is paying us what we call reconciliation. It really is an amount of fees we agreed upon in 2004 for homes built in the ’90s for which the district did not collect what we needed.”

In June, the district voted to pay $1.51 million for 15 acres south of Prairie Springs Drive and east of Badger Flat Road, south of Target. That site will be a middle school or junior high. Tietjen said that project will be given priority over a new elementary school.

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