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Mixed Results for California Bonds

June 7, 2006

Several of California's fast-growing community college districts won voter support Tuesday to issue bonds to repair and expand facilities. More than $1 billion in projects were at stake in the votes and while results are still unofficial, early results gave several districts reason to celebrate. Others were disappointed as measures went down to defeats that were not even close.

Nearly a half-billion dollars' worth of bonds were approved by voters for the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, with The San Jose Mercury News reporting that the measure was ahead by a comfortable margin. (Such bond votes must be backed by 55 percent of voters in relevant districts.)  Information released by the district said that the funds were needed both to add and to modernize facilities, with an emphasis on providing training for health-care facilities and meeting standards for earthquake safety and access for people with disabilities.

Allan Hancock College was also happy last night, with unofficial results giving the college's $180 million bond request 56.9 percent approval, with just about all of the votes counted. In materials prepared to encourage voter support, college officials noted that 75 percent of the buildings on its main campus are 40 years or older. The college, like Foothill-De Anza, also cited the need for modern facilities to train health care and emergency response workers.

Voters also appeared to have approved $286 million for the Contra Costa Community College District. A preliminary count by election officials, with all precincts reporting, had the measure receiving just over 56 percent of the vote. Early returns -- with less than half of precincts reporting -- indicated strong backing for a $390 million measure for Peralta Community College District.

Despite similar arguments, Cuesta College saw its $310 million in bonds go down in defeat. Officials told The San Luis Obispo Tribune News that as a result of the vote, they would need to reconsider some of the college's commitments to various programs. Officials said they would also examine why voters rejected the bond. Some anti-tax activists suggested that they would have backed a smaller measure.

Sierra College also saw its bond measure rejected, with only 43 percent of voters backing a measure to authorize $78 million for facilities repair. The Sacramento Bee (registration required) reported that some opposition to the bond came from residents upset that the college had designed the bond so that some portions of the college's tax district would be excluded from having to finance it. While college officials said this was done because some of those areas had passed previous bonds, other residents said the move was unfair.

The largest measure for community colleges would have provided more than $700 million in financing for the Mt. San Jacinto Community College District -- and it was voted down. College leaders plan to discuss the vote tomorrow and have said that a loss in the bond election would make it impossible for the college to serve the students projected to enroll there in the coming decades. Republican politicians and anti-tax activists have rallied against the bond proposal, saying the money isn't needed.

 

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