Prop. 51 on the ballot in November

Teresa Gaines,

The California Public School Facility Bonds Initiative, or Proposition 51, will be on the ballot for all California residents to either vote “yes” or “no” for this November. If you choose to vote “yes,” you vote for your public school, grades K-14, to apply for part of a nine billion dollar state bond that will allow for improving and expanding school facilities. For community colleges such as Los Medanos, two of the nine billion dollars would go toward capital improvement projects.
Nine billion dollars is a lot of money. Even two billion is overwhelming to students. LMC’s Vice President of Instruction and Student Services Kevin Horan explains why some would choose to vote “no.”
“This is one of many propositions that Californians will have to fund through higher taxes,” said Horan.
However, Greg Enholm, Vice President of the Contra Costa Community College Board of Trustees and visiting professor at DeVry University for economics, finance, mathematics and statistics, says, “We are asking voters to ask themselves ‘is it worth 225 extra dollars to have the ability to fund nine billion dollars worth of construction across the state for grades K-14’?’”
He had a simple way of explaining how he came to ask people for only $225 to fund a nine billion dollar state bond.
“There are 113 community colleges in California and there are 72 districts. 50 of those districts have just one college. There are approximately 40 million residents of California; if you take 9 billion and you divide it by 40 million, you end up getting $225 per person,” said Enholm. “That’s a number people can understand. That’s typically what you would pay for tuition for a 3-4 credit course.”
But community colleges are only getting two billion of the nine.
“If you take that two billion and you divide it by roughly 113 community colleges, you get approximately 20 million dollars per college,” explained Enholm.
So what would 20 million dollars mean for LMC? Chief Facilities Planner for the district, Ray Pyle, said, “There are several projects at LMC that are in planning and design. We have the P.E. and student union complex, which should go into construction in about a year. We’ve got the new Brentwood center in design, which should go into construction in about a year and a half or two and the LMC second floor college complex remodel. There’s a number of projects in the works for LMC but none of them have been put in for state funding because the state hasn’t funded a school construction bond since 2006.”
Instead, Measure E bonds have primarily provided the funds for these projects. Measure E is a local bond that was passed in Contra Costa in 2014. It provided $450 million to Contra Costa Community Colleges for upgrading and fixing facilities. In 2006, Measure A passed and provided $286 million to the district. In 2002, Measure A provided $120 million. You don’t need to do the math to know that those numbers add up to more than $20 million.
Since so many bonds have passed for the Contra Costa Community College district in the last 14 years, Enholm, Pyle and Horan all agree that Prop 51 will not make or break any projects at LMC.
Horan said it is interesting because, “We have not had a state bond passed since 2006.” But ultimately, “None of our current projects would be impacted.”
But Enholm stated the reason why the board supports it regardless, “In Contra Costa we are okay. However, other community colleges in the state, which have not had their voters approve bonds, may not be. Typically if your bond cannot get passed, your facilities deteriorate and you don’t have the money to either repair or replace them.”
“We have endorsed Prop 51 as a board. And that means we are urging everyone, the students, the faculty, the staff, to vote for Proposition 51,” said Enholm, “Yes this is important, but it is not crucial. If this bond fails, we are in good shape.”