CALEXICO — The Calexico Unified School District (CUSD) schools are in need of a major face lift, according to district officials. With this in mind, CUSD officials held a town hall meeting to discuss the newly-proposed Measure “V” that will be placed on the November 8 ballot, hoping Calexico homeowners will support the local measure.
The town hall meeting took place October 20 at the Calexico High School cafeteria where dozens of homeowners in favor and against the measure expressed their concerns.
CUSD recently completed a Facilities Master Plan (FMP) which identified over $190 million in district-wide facility school improvements including plumbing, roof, sewer and structural improvements. Many of these needs reflect the old age of the schools that were built in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
“We are not here to encourage you to vote in favor of nor against Measure “V”, we simply want you to be informed before you vote,” said Mei Randle, MBA assistant superintendent of business services for CUSD.
Measure “V” is a general obligation bond school facilities improvement measure on the November 8 ballot, that if approved would provide up to $45 million over a 10-12 year period. This would also allow CUSD to sell up to $45 million in general obligation bonds and would be utilized to upgrade, update, and modernize schools through the CUSD.
“If approved, the bond program would span over 10-12 years and would be completed in three phases,” said Randle. “The first phase would be focused on building capacity at Calexico High School, the second phase would address the junior high school needs, and the third phase would address the elementary school needs.”
Randle went on to say CUSD currently has a bonding capacity of approximately $23 million, however, Calexico would also be eligible to receive $20 million in matching state funds from Proposition 51 ($9 billion school construction bond measure statewide) if approved by voters.
“Imagine what $43 million could do to these facilities,” said Randle. “We want to make sure you understand that these funds can only be used for buildings and other infrastructure projects, including construction, modernization, and equipment.”
Proposition 51 is the first education bond to appear on the November 8 ballot as an initiative, and the first education-related bond measure to appear on the ballot since 2006. Proposition 51 is a measure earmarked for repairs and upgrades to K-12 schools, community colleges, and state colleges and universities statewide.
“The district’s general fund cannot support the facility’s needs,” explained Randle of the Calexico school district’s shortfall.
If passed, the bond would be repaid by CUSD over a 25-30 year period through property taxes from all eligible/taxable properties within the district’s boundaries, increasing property tax approximately $60 per year for every $100,000 in assessed property value.
“For example, if the property you own has an assessed property value of $300,000, then the property tax would increase by approximately $180 per year,” explained Randle. “If your property has an assessed property value of $200,000, then the property tax would increase by approximately $120 per year, and so on.”
Standing against the measure and expressing their concerns were several Hearthstone community homeowners that questioned if school district officials could be trusted with another bond due to their beliefs the district mishandled monies from the previous Measure J bond.
“I personally am against Measure V,” said Lorena Montes, one of the Hearthstone residents. “My community paid over half a million dollars in support of Measure J, and the previous administration did not improve our schools. We were promised a new boundary map where our kids could attend the new Cesar Chavez Elementary School, and they did absolutely nothing. The district is not going to tell me how to spend my money.”
Randle said the current administration could not be held accountable for the previous administration’s actions.
“In my opinion, Measure J’s expectations were unrealistic,” said Randle. “There were too many projects listed to complete with minimal funding. It was over-promised and under-delivered.”
Randle said the matter had been rectified by re-establishing a nine member Measure J Citizens’ Oversite Committee who recently approved utilizing the balance of the Measure J funds for the Calexico High School’s all weather track that will be completed in January.
“Through Measure J, we already gave the district $6 million dollars and have seen no improvements,” said Javier Jimenez, another Hearthstone resident. “If this measure passes, I want to know how can we make sure the monies will go toward school improvements and not elsewhere like Measure J?”
Randle explained that the law requires a citizens’ oversite committee which would be in place with a minimum of seven members from the community.
“If the measure is approved, the district will begin accepting applications immediately after the election,” said Randle. “This committee would be responsible to approve only the projects listed on the bond documents and would review expenditures paid with bond funds. We would also have an annual third-party audit report of the funds and expenditures that would be provided to the community and school board at regular board meetings.”
“All we ask for is that you come informed and you make an informed decision on November 8,” said Maria Ambriz, Calexico school district superintendent.