Measure E2018 is a repeat of a bond measure that has already failed twice when subjected to voter scrutiny. Maybe the Lompoc Unified School District figures voters have a short memory.
School facilities, both portable units and permanent buildings, have significantly deteriorated over the last several decades. The LUSD should have proposed a plan that addressed specific school projects, recognized changes in school distribution and put children ahead of administrative staff area improvements.
The stated purpose of the bond measure is to “repair or replace leaky roofs; upgrade inadequate electrical systems; construct/modernize classrooms, restrooms/schools; replace outdated heating, air-conditioning systems; upgrade sports fields/facilities for school and community use …”
The projects list on the LUSD website illustrates a four-phase plan with symbology that only the authors understand. It hides the fact among acronyms that they intend to modernize the district offices. And, although the language of the bond measure implies that the “bond project list below specifies the projects the district proposes to finance,” there is no list and no link to a list.
An oversight committee will be appointed consisting of seven members, but what will they oversee? The only specifics include those broad categories stated above.
Measure E is a $79-million blank check and has only broad generalities to define the project. In fact, language in the measure says it is to “complete projects as needed” to repair school facilities. Measure N, its predecessor, established measurable priorities so an oversight committee could monitor expenditures. It will be nearly impossible to hold the school district accountable for how money is spent, given the parameters of this bond.
Our politicians should tell us exactly how they’ll spend the bond assessment so it protects taxpayers by creating accountability and transparency.
This phenomenon isn’t unique to the LUSD. Governments at all levels generally budget to build a project, but rarely consider the long-term operation and maintenance costs. Thus, they always struggle to keep up with maintenance. It’s only when things start to fall apart and just painting buildings doesn’t help that they go back to their old standby, the taxpayer.
The LUSD currently has the highest assessment per $100,000 of property value in the county. This bond measure will cause property owners to continue paying 6 cents per $100 assessed value — $120 per year for $200,000 assessed valuation — for the next 30 years. If your house is assessed the average of $350,000, you’ll pay $210 a year.
However, nonprofit groups who own and manage 76 percent of the low-income multi-family housing units in Lompoc won’t pay anything toward the bond, even though thousands of their tenants will benefit from it.
Whether you support this bond issue or you don’t, consider this — if your child or grandchild is entering middle school next semester it is conceivable he/she won’t see any classroom improvements until their senior year in high school.
Why? Because it will take time to design repair projects, seek competitive bids and award contracts, move the kids to another facility and then build the project. Of course, there will be the inevitable delays as changes are negotiated when additional issues, such as dry rot and termite infestations are discovered.
How much of it will go for maintaining classrooms instead of administrative areas is a question mark. When carefully examined, this bond measure is a bad deal for those who are paying the assessment.