February 6, 2004

Editorial:

Prop. 55: Promises made do not mean promises kept

Proposition 55. Kindergarten -University Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2004 — State of California (Bond Act Put on the Ballot by the Legislature - Majority Approval Required). Should the state sell twelve billion three hundred million dollars ($12,300,000,000) in general obligation bonds for construction and renovation of K-12 school facilities and higher education facilities?

The argument for this bond starts out that ‘our kids deserve clean, safe classrooms if we expect them to succeed.’ The monies raised through the sale of bonds will be used to fix leaky roofs, repair broken bathrooms, put heating and air conditioning in classrooms, etc., etc. If this argument sounds familiar, it is because we heard this argument just three years ago when the Sweetwater School District made this same case when they pressed for the passage of Prop BB, and the results were...? Broken bathrooms weren’t fixed, classrooms weren’t improved, and so far, a whole litany of other needs have been pushed aside to build two very expensive gyms, and the other monies are going towards the construction of new schools. Now, Sweetwater School District is counting on this new bond to pass so that those original promises made might come true!

The lesson learned with the Sweetwater bond deal is that ‘promises made’ does not mean ‘promises kept.’ This is one of the major problems with Prop 55. While this bond promises to be used to upgrade and build schools throughout the state, there is one caveat, this bond can only be used as a matching fund to schools districts that raise monies, in likelihood through local bond sales. This means that property owners will have to pay twice as much to see these improvements made to local schools. And, if your school district doesn’t meet matching fund requirements, you will be paying for school improvements in another part of the state. More than a quarter of the $12 billion dollars is earmarked for Los Angeles Unified alone.

In San Diego, residents over the past few years have passed school bonds that are earmarked for local districts. A billion dollar bond was passed for San Diego Unified. San Ysidro School District passed the largest bond ever for a district their size. Sweetwater Unified had a bond passed. Southwestern College just passed a bond measure in 2001. Grossmont-Cuyamaca College, San Diego Community College, Poway Unified, Escondido Unified, La Mesa-Spring Valley Unified, Vista Unified all passed bonds last year. So money, for local schools, to fix and build new schools is not the problem. The problem is responsible management of the monies!

The bottom lines is that over its planned 30-year life, this bond is going to cost us $24 billion, and we may not even see one red cent of this money. If we are going to pay for something, we should make sure that we get something in return!

Local General Obligation Bonds, Mello-Roos Bonds, and developer fees ensure the residents of those school districts need money for school repairs, and new school money will be spent in their neighborhoods!

Vote No Proposition 55

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