By Kathy Lee Scott/Garden Grove Journal
If voters approve Measure A on the ballot Tuesday, the Garden Grove Unified School District will issue $250 million of bonds to modernize electrical, plumbing and air-conditioning systems in the district’s 69 campuses.
While $250 million, plus another $200 million matching state money, won’t cover the total amount of upgrades the school buildings need, it will help the district bring 21st century technology to classroom computers, according to the district’s consultant, George K. Baum Co.
None of the bond money can go toward teacher salaries or administrative costs, according to state law.
An earlier needs assessment showed it would cost the district around $636 million to modernize all its schools to the ideal level.
“Many of our buildings are turning 50 years old, which is the functional life expectancy for them,” said Alan Trudell, Garden Grove Unified School District spokesperson. “The ones 25 years and older qualify for modernization and state aid,” he added.
Other districts are getting state money from Proposition 1D, passed in 2006. “We want to secure our fair share,” Trudell said
Prop 1D generated $20.3 billion from bond sales earmarked for statewide school capital improvements. Currently about $1.7 billion remain, Trudell said. “Our taxpayers are already paying for it (through their personal taxes),” he added.
Measure A bonds would be paid back from property taxes. Only voters within the 28-square-mile district, which includes most of Garden Grove and parts of Anaheim, Cypress, Fountain Valley, Santa Ana, Stanton, and Westminster, can determine if the measure passes.
The extra tax would amount to $35 per $100,000 assessed property value. With the median value of homes in Garden Grove around $360,000, according to Zillow.com, homeowners would pay about $126 more a year for up to 35 years.
“We’ve paid off all our past bonds, so we’re a good risk to investors,” Trudell said.
A report to the district board in March showed three series of bonds to be sold: $130 million in 2010, paid off in 30 years; $60 million in 2013, repaid in 35 years; $60 million in 2019, paid off in 35 years.
“We don’t need the whole $250 million up front,” said Sue McCann, assistant superintendent of business service. “We’ll sell them based on our needs.”
All of the bonds are scheduled to be repaid by 2054.
Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, pointed out that the district has opted to pass its request with a 55-percent approval vote instead of a 67-percent approval. The latter had been incorporated into the state’s constitution in 1876, he said. That restriction was eased in 2000 with the passage of Proposition 39, the School Facilities Local Vote Act of 2000, that allowed a 55-percent majority to let districts sell bonds.
“A consensus of people who will pay back the bonds needs to say yes to them,” Vosburgh said. That’s why the group opposes the measure, he added.
On April 29, the O.C. Register urged a “no” vote. It based its argument on the weak economy, high foreclosure rates in the city and county and using the smaller percent of “yes” votes to pass the measure.
The Garden Grove Journal, on the other hand, is urging a “yes” vote on Measure A, citing what it considers to be the need and the distict’s record of fiscal conservatism.