A U-T San Diego editorial about a South Bay Union School District bond measure triggered a sharp response from district leaders this week.
In the editorial published Sunday titled “Local school bonds deserve a close look,” the U-T Editorial Board gave a brief opinion on school bond measures that voters will consider Tuesday and warned that strained budgets are causing some school districts to make bad decisions.
Prop. Y, the paper concluded, “is being sought because of grossly inaccurate project cost estimates that were used to help win passage of a $59.4 million bond [Prop. X] in 2008. We worry about the district’s management.”
A day later, schools Superintendent Carol Parish and Prop. X Citizens Oversight Bond Committee Casey Broach responded with letters to the paper. Parish’s letter was published Thursday in the U-T San Diego and sister North County Times.
She called the editorial inaccurate and said “I invite you, a team of accountants and staff from the Taxpayer’s Association to join us any time to review the facts.”
In her letter, Broach said the op-ed could put the future of the district’s students in jeopardy.
Prop. Y reauthorizes funds already approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2008 (76 percent voted yes), she said.
“We are proud to say that not one project has gone over budget,” Broach said. Most recent independent audits of Prop. X “received outstanding remarks,” she said.
Both Broach and Parish said that the district is asking voters to reauthorize bonds because of the economy’s impact to home valuations and property tax.
“It is the fiscal crisis in California that affected home values and assessed valuation that is the root cause of the district’s decision to place this measure on the November 2012 ballot,” Broach said.
If reauthorized, Prop. X will no longer issue bonds, Prop. Y states.
In their voting recommendations for local school bonds, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association declined to state whether they support or oppose the measure.
Analysis of Prop. X and Prop. Y by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association found in 2009 that project costs were “grossly underestimated.”
The SDCTA called initial estimates “grossly inaccurate” and questioned management. Following changes in management and project scope, “The district has demonstrated the ability to make the needed adjustments to ensure projects are completed on budget,” but costs and consulting firms remain the same.
If Prop. Y fails, the SDCTA said, the district may pursue a costly Capital Appreciation Bond to revitalize some district schools that were first built in the 1940s an 1950s.
Parish, Broach and the SDCTA agree that paying for improvements with a general obligation bond could save the district more than $70 million.
At least 55 percent of voters Tuesday must approve Prop. Y for classroom and school renovations in order for the $26 million bond to happen.
Interest paid on the bond may not exceed 12 percent a year, a county counsel impartial analysis states. If approved, property owners pay a maximum of $30 a year per $100,000 in property value.
Attached to this article are Broach and Parish’s letters, the impartial analysis, a tax rate statement, complete text of the ballot proposition and arguments in favor of Prop. Y.
No arguments against Prop. Y were submitted for voter pamphlets. No committee to raise funds and actively oppose Prop. Y has been founded, financial disclosure documents said.