It could be me, because I don't live in the MDUSD, but this ballot measure snuck up on me. Last year at the same time, I was hearing lots more about Measure D, the MDUSD parcel tax initiative that missed receiving the two-thirds vote it required to pass.
Driving around Ygnacio Valley this weekend, I didn't see too many Yes on Measure C signs up. Not as many as I would expect. Okay, we've still got two weeks until the June 8 election. But I'm still wondering whether this bond measure was put together, somewhat quickly, in response to the Measure D loss. Is the district just trying to raise extra revenue in any way possible? They couldn't get the money last year to pay for teachers and classroom programs. Now, they are attempting to get money that will pay for construction projects and facility upgrades. Afull list of Measure C projects is available on the district's website: visit MDUSD.org and click on "Community."
The district's chances of passing the measure are higher, because it only requires 55 not 66 percent of the vote.
Anyway, here are excerpts of local community leaders and journalists, offering differing viewpoints on Measure C. And you vote on the Crazy poll at least, telling the rest of us how you intend to vote in the June 8 election.
The first is pro-Measure C commentary from Walnut Creek City Councilman Kish Rajan and Jenny Reik, the chair of the Pleasant Hill Education Commission. Their commentary was published in the Contra Costa Times.
Our local school district, Mt. Diablo Unified, has provided great local education for decades, but today it faces significant challenges. Continuous state budget cuts over the past three years have taken a serious toll on our local schools.
Measure C won't solve every problem facing our local schools, but it will provide critical support to local students when state funding is increasingly unreliable. It will go a long way toward helping local students meet today's and tomorrow's challenges.
Measure C will add classroom instructional technology and upgrade science and computer labs. Improved technology will enhance advanced classes and elementary instruction in math, science and language. It will provide students the relevant technical skills they need to compete for careers in tomorrow's job market. Measure C projects also include energy-efficiency improvements like solar and other upgrades that will secure state incentive grants and cut costly utility bills.
Measure C will also fix leaky roofs and windows, upgrade, renovate and repair neighborhood schools that date from the 1950s and '60s, and make other basic repairs to schools that are outdated and deteriorating. Measure C will provide safe places for supervised after-school activities like athletics and fine arts.
A full list of Measure C projects by school site is available on the district's website: visit MDUSD.org and click on "Community."
Measure C is affordable and responsible. It maintains the tax rate voters approved with the last local school measure in 2002, without increasing taxes above that rate. In addition, by law, Measure C has taxpayer safeguards in place: All funds will be subject to independent citizen oversight and annual audits, and funds can't be taken by the state. Audits have shown that the original Measure C was implemented effectively. That commitment will continue with this Measure C.Contra Costa Times columnist Daniel Dorenstein had less nice things to day about Measure C in his column: Exorbitant price tag on Measure C
Mt. Diablo school officials never provided voters key information that would reveal the tremendous cost of the district's bond proposal on the June ballot.
To understand the exorbitant price tag of Measure C, think of a home mortgage. If you were to borrow $348,000 to buy a house using a conventional 30-year mortgage at 5 percent annual interest, you would end up paying $672,530 in principal and interest over the life of the loan. In other words, you would pay back roughly double what you borrowed.
In contrast, with Measure C, district officials seek permission to borrow $348 million to fund school construction and upgrades. But officials haven't told voters that they plan to stretch the repayment out over more than 40 years with most of the pain coming on the back end. To cover the principal and interest, property owners, by one estimate, would have to pay $1.87 billion in taxes, or more than five times the amount borrowed.
It seems that even school officials didn't know the full expense. When Superintendent Steven Lawrence came to us last month seeking editorial backing for Measure C, I asked him what the total cost would be. He had no idea. Indeed, the district didn't generate the number until Iasked for it. ...
... Here's another problem: Bonds for construction don't address the district's most critical problem. What the school system needs first is money for its day-to-day operations that have been shortchanged by the state budget crisis. For that, the district needs a parcel tax, an annual assessment to raise money for the general fund. The problem is that requires approval of two-thirds of the voters, a threshold the district failed to meet when it put a parcel tax on the ballot in May 2009 and only received 59 percent approval.
District officials considered trying again. But when polling showed they couldn't meet the two-thirds threshold, they instead turned to the bond proposal, which requires approval of only 55 percent of voters. It's like going shopping for a car when you need transportation, but buying a house instead.
Meanwhile, Bill Gram--Reefer, publisher of the political Halfway to Concord blog is very much opposed to Measure C:
Taxpayers in Contra Costa County can’t catch a break. Not only are they faced with crushing public employee pension costs negotiated by Supervisors more concerned about union bosses than citizens, but now the Mt Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) wants to pour $1.87 billion down the drain while playing patty cake with BIG LABOR in the form of an ongoing Project Labor Agreement (PLA) that raises construction costs by 20%!