How you vote on Measure O, the San Bruno Park School District’s $40 million bond measure on the Nov. 8 ballot, depends on two factors, the campaign supporters and opponents say.
Do you support improving the schools throughout the city by paying a tax on your home? Or do you question the credibility of the school board and the district’s top leadership?
Both sides have compelling arguments, but whether the measure passes might just be based on what people feel compelled to do in their hearts and minds, not necessarily in their pocketbooks.
'Look at What You're Getting for Your Money'
If you support the bond measure—which would be used to pay for capital projects throughout the district, including the second phase of the Parkside Intermediate construction project—then you don’t mind paying $30 per $100,000 of assessed value a year on your property because the actual cost will be minimal to each resident over time. The benefits to the city as a whole would be immediate as well.
As an example, Russ Hanley, the Measure O steering committee spokesman, has been telling residents during his meetings with them around town that he would be paying $21 a year because he bought his home before Prop. 13 was passed. On the other hand, his daughter, who also lives in San Bruno but bought her home after Prop. 13, would be paying $83 a year.
For that kind of money, Hanley says, the voters would be getting a lot of bang for their buck. The list of projects that would be funded by the measure includes improving athletic fields, upgrading classroom technology, installing new windows at schools and finishing the construction at Parkside to prepare for its transition to a sixth- through eighth-grade school.
“For 21 bucks or whatever amount you would be paying, I tell people, ‘Look at what I’m getting for my money and it’s helping the kids,’” he said.
'They Just Want Your Money'
Opponents of the bond measure, however, say there are a number of holes in it that just don’t make financial sense.
Their first concern is how the district has been using the $30 million from the sale of the Carl Sandburg site.
The district is only allowed to use the proceeds from the sale of the surplus property for capital projects throughout the district, and many of those projects are underway, including the first phase of the Parkside Intermediate construction project.
In Aug. 2010, the state Allocation Board approved a proposal by the district to use $12.2 million from that fund over several years to take care of non-capital improvement expenses, including paying for retirement benefits and a special education study, in order to reduce San Bruno Park’s ongoing deficit spending. The logic behind the proposal was that it would save the district money in the long run and free up money to work on future capital expenses.
Opponents of the $40 million bond measure say the district lied to the state and the public when it made its request to use Carl Sandburg funds on projects other than improving facilities.
“They say they have $40 million worth of projects that need to be done, but they told the state of California that they don’t have any project needs until 2013,” said Chuck Zelnik, one of the main opponents of the bond measure and a candidate in the school board race. “If they wouldn’t have spent money on non-capital projects, they would have had $10 million, which would have been more than sufficient to pay for projects, like the second phase of Parkside.”
School board trustee Skip Henderson, however, said those who are attacking the district’s state allocation board plan are spreading rumors.
“There are so much lies from the opposition because they don’t have any of the information,” Henderson said.
Opponents are also concerned that the district is asking the public to spend more money when the $30 million bond measure that was passed in 1998 still isn’t paid off.
“People were told that athletic fields would be improved, and lots of it didn’t get done,” Zelnik said. “It comes back to the credibility of the board. Why weren’t these other projects completed?”
Zelnik added, “This bond is a perfect example of what they’re not telling the public and that they just want your money.”
The opposition’s arguments are just scare tactics, though, Hanley said. The improvements that would be made if the bond passed wouldn’t just benefit the school district but also the city as a whole. So it is a win-win situation.
Most of all, Hanley said, the bond measure is for the kids.
“In my opinion, anything you can do for the schools is a good thing,” he said.