Proposition 51 would benefit local school districts

Stephanie Lai

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Proposition 51, otherwise known as the “Kindergarten Through Community College Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2016” will be on the Nov. 8 ballot. According to Ballotpedia, Proposition 51 is a ballot initiative, meaning it originated as a petition signed by a minimum number of registered voters to propose the statue. As an indirect initiative, the measure was first referred to the legislature by California Resident Thomas W. Hiltachk and will be put to a popular vote.

Proposition 51 will authorize $9 billion in general obligation bonds, bar amendment to existing authority to levy developer fees to fund school facilities, bar amendments to existing State Allocation Board processes for allocating school construction funding and appropriate money from the General Fund to pay off bonds.

Primarily, the $9 billion will be allocated with $3 billion for new construction, $3 billion for modernization of K-12 public school facilities, $1 billion for charter and vocational education facilities and $2 billion for California Community College facilities. The fiscal impact, as determined by the legislative analyst, is an estimated $8.6 billion in interest making Prop 51 $17.6 billion to repay and costing the state approximately $500 million a year for 35 years.

The necessity for the proposition as stated in Section 1 of the official letter to the Initiative Coordinator in the Office of the Attorney General, is due to public education being a state responsibility. The proposition supports making repairs to meet basic health and safety guidelines specifically those for fire and earthquakes.

Moreover, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson suggests that Prop 51 will allow for local schools and community colleges “to upgrade vocational education classrooms so students can train for good-paying careers and contribute to California’s growing economy. And, we owe it to our veterans to provide training and help them transition to the workplace.” Applying to both community colleges and the aforementioned, Prop 51 requires funding to be used solely for school improvement approved by local boards.

According to G. Rick Marshall and Wendy M. Lack of the California Taxpayers Action Network, they claim the measure claims that there are a lack of accountability provisions regardless of the local boards because local measures already in place fund their respective school districts. While the only campaign opposition “California Taxpayers and Educators Opposed to Sprawl and Developer Abuse was terminated July 27. Governor Jerry Brown (D), however, remains a prominent opponent of the measure due to the increased debt it entails. Moreover, there is speculation of accountability in that power would be placed in state control. According to Governor Jerry Brown, The measure fails to guarantee equality of funding for all school districts due to the inequitability of the system. School districts are granted funding based on the access to the application line, not necessity. He further elaborates that the proposition funds may be exploited by construction companies for their profit.

The question remains whether the funding is a necessity or if California should focus on education system reforms before instituting state school bonds. However, many school districts anticipate the measure to help offset the renovations to local schools. Temecula Valley Unified has to date submitted $20 million in funding applications to the state in anticipation of the passage of a state school facilities bond. The application of the measure would reimburse the district for funds already spent on projects.

“Those projects are for the theater at Temecula Valley High School, the modernization of Nicolas Valley Elementary School, the modernization of Margarita Middle School, and the Culinary Arts and Two-Story Classroom Building at Temecula Valley High School,” explained TVUSD Director of Facilites Development Janet Dixon.

“The District would also qualify for matching funds for modernization funding for several additional schools,” Dixon said of the second phase of funding. “The first of these projects would be constructed at Temecula Elementary School in 2017. The Temecula Elementary School project entails re-roofing of the oldest buildings on the site, safety improvements including fire alarm upgrades, and fencing improvements, replacement of old and inefficient air conditioning units, addition of a permanent stage in the multi-purpose room, asbestos removal, and American with Disabilities Act accessibility compliance improvements.”

Other funds over the next one to two years for qualifying schools would be used for Vail Elementary School, Temecula Middle School, Red Hawk Elementary School, Vail Ranch Middle School, and the Sparkman Alternative Education Center for modernization, given the bond money has not been exceeded past its $3 billion limit.

All the projects listed and future renovations fall under the over $375 million in capital facility needs according to the Facilities Master Plan for the district in 2012.

“The voters of the district approved Measure Y in 2012, which provides $165 million toward meeting those needs,” Dixon said. “Any matching funding obtained from the state through Proposition 51 will allow the district to leverage the Measure Y dollars to complete more projects on that plan.”

According to TVUSD’s website, the introduction of Measure Y was to appropriate $165 million from property taxes to acquire, construct and reconstruct school facilities, and provide for supporting infrastructure at existing school sites throughout the district. The locally approved ballot initiative was budgeted to address the most critical building needs of the district. These needs, identified in the Master Facility Plan and Bond Project List were prioritized through a weighing of numerous factors, including health, safety and security, regulatory and legal compliance issues, technology needs, educational program enhancements, projected enrollment growth, and the district’s mission, vision, and core values.

With local school districts preparing in anticipation for the proposition, the power is in the hands of the voters to appraise the measure’s necessity.

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