By Priscilla Schreiber, Trustee, Grossmont Union High School District
November 3, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) -- After reviewing statements made in the San Diego County Taxpayers Association's (SDCTA) campaign literature, "Yes on BB", I thought it would be helpful to the voters if I shared my perspective, as the Board member who did not vote to put this bond measure on the ballot.
My comments (not in bold) follow their statements (in boldface):
-WHAT IT DOES
This $128 million school bond will help improve teaching and learning in Grossmont Union High School District So East County students have the same chance as others to compete for college and 21st century careers.
When the new superintendent first visited the campuses he said other districts would be so envious. So, how is Grossmont not giving students the same chance as others, when in fact, they've been given the edge for success with many improvements from two bonds? Prop U still has $170M to be tapped.
Prop BB will be a revenue stream for the bond program that otherwise would not have funding under Prop U until 2019 because of excessive spending and accessed valuation limitations. This bond measure also gives the district the opportunity to list projects on the ballot that are underway without voter approval.
-HIGH SCHOOLS TO BE IMPROVED BY MEASURE BB
El Cajon Valley, El Capitan, Granite Hills, Grossmont, Helix, IDEA Center, Mount Miguel, Monte Vista, Santana, Steele Canyon, Valhalla, and West Hills.
You’ll note, not included, is the Alpine High School campus to be improved by Measure BB, the third in a series of bonds that lists the high school! Maybe that $26M investment of taxpayer monies doesn't qualify that fenced-in vacant land as a campus in need of improvements?
-Measure BB formally adopts the Taxpayer Association’s Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee Best Practices and will adopt the updated SDCTA School Construction and Professional Services Procurement Best Practices.
Maybe the SDCTA, our Board, and Citizens Bond Oversight Committee (CBOC) should just follow the law, as stated in Prop 39, and put forth a "specific" list of projects in order to ensure the taxpayers that bond dollars will only be spent on the voter-approved projects.
-The School District will also pursue opportunities for joint-use with other public agencies to save taxpayer money and provisions for fair and open competition for all District construction projects to ensure that taxpayers get the best value for your money.
This is a boilerplate statement that's been stated twice before in Prop H & U and now BB? So, which completed projects are joint-use with other public agencies?
-HOW YOU’RE PROTECTED
San Diego County Taxpayers Association supports Measure BB because Grossmont Union High School District has kept their word about spending bond money from prior years.
They kept their word? Now, wouldn’t that imply a promise was made and then wouldn't that mean the Alpine high school is built? This Board said the bond is not a promise. Spending bond money on non-voter approved projects is not keeping faith with the voters either.
This is almost laughable if not so sad. Families who have nothing to show for their tax dollars after two bonds will be assessed more in taxes if Prop BB passes and still, they will have nothing in return.
Is this really the argument SDCTA is giving as taxpayer protection in exchange for supporting the bond, because Grossmont ‘kept their word?’
-Grossmont Union High School District produced details about financials and management. BB includes a specific spending plan aimed at real priorities.
VOTE YES ON MEASURE BB.
So, what did the SDCTA do with those detailed financials and "management”…? Did they review Prop U's performance audits since 2009? Because if they had they would have found that the performance audits were not tied to the project list that was passed by the voters in 2008 in Prop U in accordance with Prop 39 law, but rather, the auditor tested against the 2009 Master Facilities Plan update.
This is not in compliance with the law.
Random thoughts: The statement below was made on May 26, 2016 by SDCTA's President & CEO, Haney Hong, in reference to Grossmont’s use of Bond funds spent on its attorneys’ fees in the Alpine matter:
“This expenditure of taxpayer funds, regardless of whether it meets the letter of the law, certainly doesn’t meet the spirit of the bond proposal and seems highly inappropriate,” Hong told Times of San Diego after a request for comment.
“More importantly, it could have been avoided completely if the district had followed the expenditure plan promised in its [Proposition U] bond measure.”
…Haney Hong, President & CEO SDCTA
I believe Mr. Hong was right when he said this could have been avoided, but he goes on to say, if the District had followed the expenditure plan promised... but what "promised" expenditure plan was he talking about in Prop U and what expenditure plan is SDCTA talking about in Prop BB, as neither Bond Measures have expenditure plans? How can an expenditure plan exist without a "specific" list of projects set by the Board?
Contrary to SDCTA's statement made here, there is NO clear spending plan or otherwise, and NO prioritized list in the BB Bond Measure. Shame on the SDCTA, this is a false statement!!! The Bond amount ($128M) falls short of having the funds ($670M) necessary to cover all the projects listed, thus, the disclaimer, "there are no guarantees that projects listed will get done." What kind of taxpayer protection is that? You don’t need a disclaimer with a plan and a thoughtful list of projects? Disclaimers are for manipulating the process.
Staff has said on occasion that they need to get voter authorization for everything in order to give the District flexibility to later decide which projects will get done. This thinking was supposed to be abolished with the accountability measures promised in Prop 39, the law that lowered the passage rate to 55% and which requires a "specific" list of projects to be put before the voters for approval.
Based on an honest review of the facts, how can the SDCTA, whose purpose is to protect the taxpayers, specifically, when deciding whether to endorse these bonds and uphold the law, support Grossmont's Prop BB? Who really stands to gain, the taxpayer? I think not!
-Give our students a fair chance for a successful career.
Give our taxpayers an honest bond!
The opinions in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.