Oak View closer to owning
by Chris Wilson
Oak View's Community Works! organization has taken another step
toward acquiring the Oak View School property and preserving
it as a community resource.
About 50 valley residents came to Oak View Community Center Thursday
evening to hear keynote speaker Ventura County Supervisor Steve
Bennett. He outlined the work the county had already done, the
details of a possible tax increase to buy the property, and what
other steps would need to be taken before the old elementary
school could be purchased.
But before he got into the details of the proposed project, he
made one point clear; the county has no money, nor will they
offer any, to buy or maintain the property.
"This project must be cost- neutral to the county,"
Bennett said. "Before any of you leave here, I want you
to take a blood oath that you heard me say that." But, he
reassured them, "Every penny you put in will be used for
Using overhead slides, Bennett explained the results of the survey,
what the benefit assessment district's money would buy, and what
else needed to be done to move forward.
In November 2001 surveys were mailed to 2,700 residents between
Casitas Springs and Highway 150, and Santa Ana Road and Creek
Road. The randomly divided surveys asked if that particular resident
would support a $20, $35, or $50 property tax increase to support
the purchase of the Oak View School building between Prospect
Street, Mahoney Street and Valley Road. He said 659 surveys had
been returned: a very favorable and slightly-above-average return
according to the benefit assessment engineer. Of the returned
surveys, 62 percent indicated they would support a $50 tax increase
over 30 years, Bennett said.
"This is a rare situation when a community comes together
and says they will tax themselves," Bennett said.
This tax would provide enough money, about $1 million, to purchase
and slightly improve a few of the 55-year-old buildings. Money
raised by the 30-year bond would be sufficient to keep a few
of the buildings from further deteriorating, or board them up,
or demolish them: the community would have to decide, he said.
"We're cutting it close to do what we're offering you here,"
Bennett said. "There won't be a problem of needing to return
some of the money at the end."
Though the county would own the buildings and the board of supervisors
would always have final say on what happens with the property
after purchase, Bennett suggested the community form an advisory
committee to manage the property and provide recommendations
for the building's use to the supervisors. For example, some
of the rooms could be leased to businesses or non-profit groups,
or space could be made available for the Oak View Library. In
this way, additional money could be brought in to further improve
Near the end of the meeting, Bennett asked for a show of hands
from those who want him to recommend to the other supervisors
to move forward with the project. All but one woman raised their
hands in support. Bennett told the crowd their approval was no
guarantee the other supervisors or county CEO Johnny Johnston
would go for the deal. Johnston, he said, is currently crunching
to numbers to make sure it won't cost the county anything to
maintain or purchase the buildings. As far as the other supervisors
were concerned, even with his go-ahead recommendation, there
was no telling whether they would go for the project or not,
Leigh Melander, who represents Community Works!, told the audience
that it was in their best interest to be patient and understanding
with the Ventura County School District.
"They are trying to help us make this work," she said.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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