"This is fiscal irresponsibility...The bond oversight is a joke." -- Nick Marinovich, bond oversight committee member who recently resigned in protest (photo, left).
"I don't think the public is aware of the damage being done by a handful of special interests." -- Jim Kelly, board member, referring to Alpine parents and taxpayers who sued the district over its failure to build the Alpine high school
By Janis Russell; Miriam Raftery also contributed to this report
September 15, 2015 (El Cajon)- At the September 10th Grossmont Union High School District board meeting, president Robert Shield gave his report regarding a lawsuit the board is facing filed by citizens of Alpine. An update on Propositions H and U was presented to the board. The majority approved an agreement with CliffordMoss and John Hoy to study the likelihood that voters would re-authorize Prop U bonds or issuance of new bonds.
That could be a tough sell to voters, since the district is being sued by Alpine taxpayers for failing to spend Prop H and U bonds on building an Alpine high school as spelled out in the bonds. The district has claimed enrollment triggers weren't met, though multiple knowledgeable insiders have repeatedly reported that triggers were met.
The board also approved to redesignate David Kvendru as Financial Executives International Representative to the Prop U Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee (CBOC). Board Vice President, Dr. Gary Woods was watching from a teleconference.
Shield first gave a report regarding what he views as a waste of taxpayers’ money as a direct result of the Alpine lawsuit over the district’s failure to build an Alpine High School despite two bond measures that authorized it as a top priority project. Shield said the suit has caused “both direct legal costs and indirect costs born by the district… The cost to date, which will continue to rise, has been approximately $3.4 million as a result of the efforts of the people in Alpine.”
Board member Jim Kelly gave his opinion. “I don’t think the public is aware of the damage being done by a handful of special interests,” he said in a reference to parents and Alpine taxpayers while filed the suit. He accused Alpine residents of causing “so much obstruction, so much delay, [and] a waste of taxpayer money.”
Though the district claims the suit is "frivolous," the Alpine parents and taxpayers have won support, from the San Diego County Board of Education, which recommended that Alpine be removed from the Grossmont district and moved into the Alpine Union School District so that it can build the long-promised high school.
A Superior Court Judge found ample merit in Alpine residents’ claims that he ordered the GUSD to put bond money into escrow to assure it is not spent on projects other than the Alpine School; the funds will be moved into the Alpine district if the state Department of Education approves the district split. That's after the county grand jury found the board misappropriated bond monies on projects not listed in the bond in a scathing report titled "Fool me once, fool me twice." The grand jury told the district to set a firm timetable to build the school or cooperate with efforts to unify the Alpine Union district and allow parents to leave. But the board did neither. But the Board failed to mention those facts in its presentation.
Next, District Executive Director Katy Wright gave an update on the status of Proposition H/U. A PowerPoint was shown with construction updates of different high schools in the district. Starting with Monte Vista, she stated, “We were originally going to begin and end this project in the summer.” They instead started six weeks later because of this lawsuit, she said, adding that now, they’re only doing two projects and will be finished in October this year. Then, they will start on the third project. “What we got finished before school started is the entry way.”
Wright then gave an update about Grossmont High. “We spent the summer getting new bus lanes in..and the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] pathway.” This project is expected to last about a year. With Valhalla, there was also a delay until the next school year for completion. Chapparal had flooding and they hope to open the building next school year. “It’s been a busy summer for maintenance”, she added. There’s been painting, paving, and roof work done.”
Wright also brought up the January 2015 bond review. There was a directive to evaluate new possibilities in lieu of a multi-purpose building at Mt. Miguel. The same thing happened with Santana. They are looking to re-designate space.
The last item she brought up was reauthorization bonds. The board is looking at the 2030 agreement, not the 2019 now, she said. “We just got this money in 2015. The next batch of money will be charter money. Then the next batch won’t come in until 2019… We can’t do much with $12 million now,” Wright said. The charter money will hopefully come in the spring and a lot of it will be used for the construction at Helix.
Board member Priscilla Schreiber wanted to know if they could reauthorize under the current interest bonds. Deputy Superintendent Scott Patterson confirmed that. She also asked about the state facilities bond for K-12 education. Wright explained that the board has to have some share to access the rest of the bonds. They’ve already been using some of that bond money.
Board member Jim Stieringer asked if the roofing company will pay for the water damage at Chapparal. Patterson verified that is what they would ultimately do, but right now, they’re using their own insurance, JPA. Ultimately, the roofing company will reimburse for the damage.
The next item on the agenda was approval of agreement for the feasibility study. Nick Marinovich, former GUHSD CBOC committee member and who has also served on Sweetwater’s CBOC, spoke.
“The tax rate for Prop H is expected to rise to $44.88. Why?” he asked. “Your projections are way too optimistic… This is fiscal irresponsibility..You must, under the current law, have capital appreciation bonds.” He also pointed out this was never promised to the voters and the voters never approved it.
“The CBOC has a lot of good people. However, the bond oversight is a joke,” said Marinovich. “Where is the CBOC? Were they consulted?”
Kelly moved to approve the agreement followed by a second from Stieringer. Kelly, Shield, Stieringer, and Woods all voted in favor. Schreiber voted against. The vote was 4-1.
The board then moved on to approve to re-designate David Kvendru on the CBOC. Kelly moved to approve followed by a second from Stieringer. Schreiber then said she wouldn’t support this because Kvendru has missed the CBOC meetings the last four times, since they now have quarterly meetings. She wanted the board to reconsider. Kelly, Shield, Woods, and Stieringer voted to approve. Schreiber voted against. The vote was 4-1.
The next GUHSD board meeting will be on Thursday October 15 at 6 p.m. at the East County Regional Education Center. The agenda will include the state facilities bond.