Our IMPACT Board has made the recommendation for the upcoming March 3, 2020 single ballot proposal, Proposition 13:
Proposition 13. Recommendation: SUPPORT
Prop. 13 is a legislatively-originated bond measure of $15 billion to cover upgrades, new construction, and other capital improvements to our K-12, community college, and university buildings. Much is for ongoing retrofit to improve earthquake safety and upgraded plumbing to eradicate lead in the drinking water, to deal with overcrowding, and continue the focus on financially stressed areas with low performing schools via determinations already established by law.
The most recent previous bond measure, Prop. 55, passed in 2016. It raised $7 Billion of which $3 billion remains unused. It was heavily weighted to K-12. The General Services Administration notes a significant amount spent on retrofit and some on construction. Most went to relieve overcrowding (none of those allocations remains unspent) while unspent funds were for general remediation and new construction.
What is particularly gratifying about Prop. 13 is the requirement that universities' trustees must create a five-year plan to provide affordable student housing for their campus populations. In light of the horror stories we've read about students living in their cars or worse, this is a major milestone.
The competition for grants from Prop. 13 will be based on matching funds. Modernization and safety upgrades will be funded at 60-65%; new construction will be 50-55% Revenue allocations to community colleges will be tied to their budgets. This may do a disservice, however, to underfunded campuses such as Los Angeles Southwest Community College that has always been shortchanged. Its student population, nearly 90% Black, never was a priority. Tying the bond money to already low revenue rather than material needs is at odds with the K-12 formulae that emphasize spending in neglected areas. Nevertheless, money will still be forthcoming for necessary expansion and improvements and is important for those reasons.
As with all CA revenue bonds for capital upgrades, this bond language contains a project labor agreement guaranteeing good wages to those performing the construction and has an administrative cap of 5%.
We were a bit discomfited by the high percent of funds left unspent from Prop. 55. It's almost half. However, that in part stems from the Treasurer's fiscally responsible decision to place bonds in the market in reasonably conservative bundles to get low interest and ease the payback demands from the annual General Fund. It's been less than 4 years since Prop. 55 was passed, so the careful expenditures are not out of line with that responsible fiscal distribution.
That said, this bond serves a broader audience, continues work that was too long delayed during our economic lag from 2001 until quite recently, and does address communities in need as high priorities through most of the spending formulae. It is a good time at this moment of extremely low interest rates for us to engage in work long delayed. We have children still going to schools in buildings that were in abominable condition back in the 1970s and that remain so today. Those schools are largely in communities of color, and the 40 year lag in upgrade is unconscionable. We need to improve the physical resources of all our schools so we bring educational levels to greater equity for all. Part of that work started with Prop. 51. It needs to continue. We also need to address the expansion of Career Ed facilities at our community colleges and the appalling lack of student housing at our most prestigious universities. All of these things will be assisted by Prop. 13.
We therefore support this important step, long overdue, for improving the environments in which our children are educated.
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Thank you. See you at the polls March 3!