Education bond up for vote on March 2

    Students will be among those voting March 2 on whether to pass the Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2004, better known as Proposition 55, intended to fund California K-12 public schools and higher education learning through general obligation bonds.

    Proposition 55, which is endorsed by the UC Board of Regents, is a bond measure that would supply funding for education facilities in K-12 schools and California Community Colleges, the California State University and the University of California systems.

    The university stands to gain a total of $690 million with which to build new buildings and help fund the number of future incoming students, UC Office of the President spokeswoman Abby Lunardini said.

    “We need the capital support,” Lunardini said. “We have been underfunded for years, and the capital budget will face many shortfalls if this proposal fails to pass.”

    Projects listed under Proposition 55 for UCSD include about $20 million for the Student Academic Services Facility, about $25 million for Mayer Hall renovation, and a tentative $37 million for the Music Building, expected to total $110 million for 2004-05 and 2005-06 if the bond passes, according to the Regents Budget for Capital Improvements. The fiscal impact of the bond would be about $24.7 billion: $12.3 billion to pay off the bond’s principal and another $12.4 billion in interest over time.

    Opponents of the proposition, including the 60-Plus Association and the National Tax-Limitation Committee, argue that the state is already in a situation of financial crisis and to spend more money would mean higher taxes for California taxpayers.

    “California is facing the most severe financial crisis in the history of any state,” State Sen. Rico Oller (R-Sacramento) states in his argument against Proposition 55 on the California Official Voter Information Guide. “For decades, we will be forced to pay higher taxes just to pay back what we have already borrowed.”

    The proposed bill is associated with Proposition 47, the 2002 state bond that provided $13 billion for school facilities. Prop. 55 will provide funding for facilities for public schools throughout the state, including $10 billion for K-12 and $2.3 billion for higher education.

    The University of California would receive approximately $345 million per year for capital outlay for the four-year period covered by the two bond acts, according to a statement by UC President Robert C. Dynes.

    As an alternate solution to the $12.3 billion bond issue, Oller proposes to build and renovate only part of the thousands of proposed California public schools each year.

    “Then we wouldn’t have to threaten California’s financial stability,” Oller stated. “Even without new bonds, our crippling debt load will make it much more difficult for government to respond to natural disasters and recessions.”

    According to Oller and both the 60-Plus Association and the National Tax-Limitation Committee, in order to receive any money from the bond, local school districts are required to provide 40-percent matching funds, unless they qualify for special state assistance.

    “Unless you live in a wealthy community with surplus cash for the required 40-percent matching funds, you and your children may never see a penny from this $12.3 billion bond,” Oller said.

    Some students who will vote on March 2 said that California is in a state of debt and this 40-percent matching funds stipulation presents difficulty for those who would otherwise support the bond issue.

    “The 40-percent matching provision should be taken out of the proposal because if they are going to spend more deficit money on schooling, it should be equal opportunity spending, so that the stratifying division between the rich and the poor does not increase drastically,” Thurgood Marshall College sophomore Wesley Chiu said. “They should spend the money as to the condition of the schools and whether or not the money is needed.”

    Funds will subsidize the construction of new schools and classrooms, as well as finance the purchase and installation of air-conditioning equipment and insulation materials. These include the purchase of furniture or equipment designed to increase safety, the assessment of hazardous asbestos and the funding for roof replacement projects, according to Section 100829 of the bill outlining means for K-12.

    Revelle College freshman Zack Simkover said that improving the conditions for these educational facilities outweighs the impact it could have on the state deficit.

    “I am voting ‘yes’ on Proposition 55,” Simkover said. “We’re always paying for taxes, and the whole purpose of taxes is to pay for social programs. We have to choose the one that means the most to us.”

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