Voters to decide on important school bonds

Posted at 7:30 PM, Oct 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-31 22:30:42-04

On Election Day, two school bonds will be up for vote that, if approved, will raise property taxes in a county already tough to afford.

Measure BB

The Grossmont Union High School district wants $128 million to upgrade East County high schools, and money from Measure BB will mean repairs to aging roofs, plumbing and electrical systems, modernizing labs and upgrading classrooms.

Every day, 21,860 East County students attend school on Grossmont Union High School District campuses.

"We don't want to hold them back in getting them the kind of education they need to be successful," said voter Cheryl Ross.

Proponents say repairs and upgrades are needed to give students the same opportunities as others to get them college- and career-ready. The money would not be used for administrators' salaries and pensions.

"Even though we're retired people on fixed income, we still believe the children are the future," said Ross.

Rita George and her husband voted no on Measure BB, and she told 10News, "In your own household, even though you need it, if you can afford something, you can't buy it."

Opponents say Measure BB's tax increase is unfair to seniors and fixed-income property owners. They argue it's another bond so soon after spending over a half billion dollars. Some are still wondering where is the Alpine high school the last approved bond promised to build.

For 71 years, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association has independently reviewed all that goes on a ballot. It reviewed Measure BB, talked to the staff, stakeholders, looked at what they're proposing, what they've done in the past, and in the end, it endorses Measure BB.

"Public finance is not a simple thing. This is why the Taxpayers Association spends the time to look into these things," said Haney Hong, president and CEO of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association.

The California Taxpayers Action Network has come out against Measure BB. It believes the bond will benefit companies and contractors the most and that it will build "pet projects" instead of necessary ones.

Measure Z

In the South Bay, the Southwestern Community College District wants $400 million to upgrade local community college campuses.

If Measure Z passes, it also promises to use the money to repair aging roofs, plumbing and electrical systems, build modern labs and upgrade and build classrooms.

More than 20,000 students enroll every year.

"We want to make sure the school district is being transparent to the voter," said Hong, whose Taxpayers Association is opposed to Measure Z.

"We had concerns about transparency, and it was unclear that the district would commit to the best practices that the Taxpayers Association stands for," added Hong.

Proponents of Measure Z say the bond will make critically needed repairs to 50-year-old classrooms, make college more affordable and provide vocational and technical training. Supporters say it'll also help veterans get back into the workforce.

Opponents argue improvements should've already been made with previous bond money. They also believe Measure Z is unfair to seniors and fixed-income property owners.

If it passes, a $500,000 property can expect $125 in additional taxes per year for decades.

"No one has a crystal ball, and things can change in the economy -- property values, things can change in a number of different aspects," Hong said.

Meaning, the estimated tax increase rate of $25 per $100,000 is not guaranteed -- it could go higher.

The county Republican Party also opposes Measure Z. Supporters include the county Democratic Party and the American Federation of Teachers Guild Local 1931.

Both Measure Z and BB need 55% of the vote to pass.