"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.
GUHSD continues to waste money, distort facts od bond
This comment is as long as the article, It must be so, explaining why the GUHSD has caused many people to be dumbfounded in observance of their actions. I feel compelled to fill in the largest holes generated by GUHSD's outpouring of misinformation. I'll also shout out on the bewilderment caused by actions and words of the GUHSD Board Majority, and it's Administration.
The GUHSD has spent $3.4 million defending what they have chosen to call a "frivolous lawsuit!" A CA Superior Court, the honorable Judge Joel Pressman, the San Diego County Grand Jury wouldn't, none has called it as such.
There is proof, they wouldn't have ruled favorably for Alpine if the court deemed this as such, nor did the CA Appeals Court think of it as frivolous, with the three Judges on the 1st GUHSD appeal, ruling against the GUHSD. This appeal they brought concerning the pre-luminary injunction that set aside $42 Million for Alpine High School, done so at the discretion of the Honorable Judge Pressman.
Why don't the folks at the GUHSD see that $3.4M spent in legal defense fees, used in context of their claim of a "frivolous lawsuit", quickly raises quite a few red flags? Alpine has spent one-tenth of that amount.
The facts are simple and only a few need citing:
1) Alpine HS was headlined in two bonds. The 1st stated It was a bond for reasons of "Safety and Overcrowding", the 2nd bond was stated as needed by the Superintendent, "for the purpose of following up after the 1st bond, it was to finish up projects that the 1st bond did not, the 2nd bond was a follow up bond and was meant to start & finish the Alpine High School, as one example
2) About "Safety"... Alpine needs a high school to save the life of at least 1 student each year who dies enroute, traveling to a far away HS campus. Parents have died as well. What about the "Overcrowding" factor? Granite Hills HS was originally designed for around 2,000, it was maxed out, having more portable classroom buildings than permanent one's, to accommodate Alpine's 600 students, and others, out of the total of over 2,700 attending GHHS!
Also; Steele Canyon High School, where over 300 Alpine students attend High School, was designed for 1800, now about 2,300 attend SCHS, now a charter, they voted to leave the GUHSD also. It is apparent that the GUHSD has spent Alpine's intended bond money to "frivolously" upgrade other facilities at other campuses, constructing facilities that were never stated to be built, or had been escalated in scope and scale from original intention in the facilities master plan, the basis for each bond's project list, thus not authorized, or intended.
It is from facts found in GUHSD's own generated documents that they've built over 200,000 + of sq. ft., of "newly added" originally unintended educational space, "frivolous?" is what this spending is, It is worth repeating, that most of this was not specified as a project in any bond, nevertheless this "frivolous" use of money added non-necessary space to its existing campuses.
They have admitted to have no OPEX money available for the needed increased janitorial costs, or maintenance staff added necessary expense, to care for this added space! The Alpine HS, if built as promised, would have been only ⅓ of this space built, it was planned at around 70,000 sq. ft! The GUHSD has the gall to claim declining enrollment as the reason to not build the HS called out in both bonds we passed, (OMG) yet they have built three high school equivalents.
Oh, might I add; a GUHSD Demographer predicted statistically that an Alpine HS would bring as a minimum 260 and perhaps as high as 400 new student to the District, at over $8,000 per student, this is Million in new revenue. The Alpine HS project was The only revenue adding bond project, a profit center for GUHSD was the new 12th high school.
Do the people understand this, is this robbing from Alpine to buy patronage from the lion's share of their board member electing constituents who vote? Maybe, no other logic comes to mind. Board Member Kelly says about the Alpiners who filed the lawsuit, "a few activists", also here Kelly says, "A handful of special interests" from Alpine.
Please understand, know that over 4,000 Alpine people signed the unification petition to withdraw from the GUHSD because they've frivolously built three high school equivalents, all built while telling Alpine students and parents that, "we the GUHSD, have a declining enrollment problem, and can't justify the Alpine high school we promised for you. Why add over 200,000 new sq. ft., claiming declining enrollment as a reason it wasn't building the bond promised 12th high school?
This ECM article correctly says that a SD Grand Jury, and the SD County Office of Education, and a Superior Cout Judge, have all ruled in Alpine's favor, against the GUHSD. The Public Relation and Media Department at the GUHSD is rolling out anti-Alpine propaganda that is calling the honorable Superior Court Judge Joel Pressman, "Alpine's friend." And also the GUHSD has accused the SD County Office of Education as favoring Alpine, and the same claim is levied against the SD County Grand Jury.
Wake up Grossmont to what these unbiased authority's are doing; they are finding the "GUHSD negligent." A Forbes Magazine article written by a Bond Investing expert inferred that there is possible criminal negligence at the GUHSD, in the form of investor fraud!
This info I give is all easily verifiable... The GUHSD has spent $3.4 M, and we haven't even gotten inside of a Courtroom yet! The Superior Court will hear this case in December of this year. Do we see the GUHSD spending nearing $5,000,000 defending themselves against this (arrogantly claimed) "frivolous Lawsuit", lawfully filed against the GUHSD by the group Alpine Taxpayers for Bond Accountability?
It is likely. It is also fiscally ridiculous, and it is wasteful spending by the GUHSD, who BTW, hasn't told you all the facts. If the GUHSD loses (it is likely) then they may be required by law to reimburse the Alpine's Taxpayer for Bond Accountibility (ATBA are the lawsuit Plaintiffs) for their legal expenses, at the prevailing rate of defense costs.
This isn't limited to the frugal amount of spending of Alpine, in comparison to the exorbitant legal defense money spent by the Grossmont folk's, yes, the bar for reimbursement to Alpine is being set by the GUHSD, they might have to reimburse Alpine based on their own excessively high legal fees and spending habits! They are wasting bond money on exhorbitant facilities, and their legal defense spending is equally exorbitant.
Based on discussion at this GUHSD School Board meeting, they now want to extend this bond to ask for more money? In essence, give us a 3rd follow-on bond? I cannot see the logic here. The San Diego Grand Jury Report critical of GUHSD action was titled, "Fool us once, Fool us twice", so now they mismatch this bond, and they (GUHSD) are wanting to ask for more money? "Fool us thrice" is the amended title for the next Grand Jury Investigation of the GUHSD!
Waste, waste, more waste, and now we need you to give us more to bond money to waste... Fast approaching, maybe with matching from the state, exceeding a $1 billion, and they haven't yet figured out how to budget to provide the about $80m to $90M, that is rightfully due Alpine. They (the GUHSD Bd. Majority, and Supt. Ralf Swenson) complain that Honorable Judge Joel Pressman has court ordered a set aside of $42M, which is less than half what is required to build the bond headlined, promised high school in Alpine. Really!
The GUHSD, in a resolution they passed already, has promised to set aside (their word was "escrow") $65 million for the Alpine HS. Where is that? 65M minus 42M, hmm, there is seemingly,a $23 Million sum lost in a GUHSD accounting error somewhere. Perhaps Judge Pressman will help the GUHSD find this missing money, maybe it was used elsewhere, on one of the frivolous non-essential, non-bond-authorized, already completed structures built elsewhere?
Just saying maybe. Only the GUHSD knows for certain, we know that they certainly aren't transparent about where they "escrowed" the $65 million promised, or why they are upset about a $42 million injunction, which is already supposedly set aside money as part of the $65 M. What are they upset about? They already said they would set aside this money for Alpine. Confused? Me too.