United Homeowners Alliance
A California Community Organization for Artesia, Cerritos and Surrounding Areas
United, We Safeguard Our Homes and Our Community.

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FMP and Bond Measure
Questions and Concerns
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United HOA
16407 Greenlake Lane
Cerritos, CA 90703
ID #1293711




Questions and Concerns

In general, better schools entail better communities, so there is nothing wrong to come up with a FMP that identifies school facilities that need improvement. Bettering schools costs money, so there is also nothing wrong to issue a bond measure within reason in order to raise funds. We understand our neighboring school districts have issued or are about to issue bond measures, so we may fall behind if we don't follow suit.

However, there are different approaches to doing the same thing. Some are reasonable, while others are questionable.

A good example is the Orange Unified School District. They put on their website a flash presentation of each FMP for each school. They had an online survey, many community forums, with brochures sent out to the community, etc. They have engaged their community for over a year to work out the details. That approach is very reasonable.

By contrast, the ABCUSD FMP was prepared in a hurry and without community involvement. There even appears to be an effort to avoid any public participation and reject any public criticism. That approach is very questionable.

Based on input we've received from the public and on our own analyses, the following are the main questions and concerns over ABCUSD's FMP and bond measure:

1. The 1997 modernization bond

Understanding the effect of the 1997 modernization bond offers a reference point for assessing what the new modernization bond will do. Ten years ago, the school district completed a series of modernization projects for $135 million, part of which was the 1997 bond money. Now we know the so-called modernization is just a list of repairs, corrections and replacements. So the question is whether we'll get the same deal this time.

2. School facility maintenance

A mere 10 years after the completion of the $135 million modernization effort, we were told our school facilities were in disrepair again. So what happened? We were told the school district had no money for maintenance, because the State was always behind in funding deferred maintenance and capital improvement. If that's true, then how long would this round of modernization last before it also falls into disrepair?

3. How to fund the rest of the FMP

According to the FMP, the projects identified there will cost taxpayers $645 million. The $195 million bond measure if approved by voters is only enough to pay 30% of that cost. How will the school district come up with money to pay the other 70%? Will there be a second or even third bond measure for that purpose? The school district hasn't officially said it won't happen, and the law doesn't prohibit it from doing so.

4. The "pay to play" approach

The district entered into a contract with George K. Baum & Co. before the bond measure was voted upon. Why? This firm is a known player of the potentially illegal "pay to play" game - taking taxpayers' money from school districts and working agressively against taxpayers to raise their taxes. Why is ABCUSD associated with such a company?

5. The "stealth election" approach

Throughout the preparation of the FMP and bond measure, there was not a single public forum. Not a single letter, postcard, flyer/mailer or brochure was sent to anyone whose property tax will be increased by hundreds of dollars. What is the reason the school district doesn't want the taxpayers to be part of the process?

6. The fast-track approach

A government project this size and scope takes 18-24 months to complete public comments and analyses before a vote by an elected body can be taken. Yet the FMP was completed in just 3 months. It was first posted on the school district's website on Friday, July 4, exactly two business days before it was put to a vote by the school board. The general public never had a chance to study, digest and comment on it? Why was it done in such a big hurry?

7. Lack of demographic analysis

Demographic studies show the population in the ABC school district is aging, and the number of school age children is decreasing. Over the last decade the district has lost around 2000 students, resulting in many schools operating below capacity and some schools almost half empty. Why is this severe enrollment decline never mentioned in the FMP? Why did the idea of consolidating existing surplus school facilities never occur to those who prepared the FMP? Why are taxpayers expected to invest heavily on school facilities they no longer need?

8. Lack of financial analysis

School facilities may differ in age and condition. They may also differ in the rate of occupancy. There needs to be a cost-benefit analysis to maximize the efficiency of any modernization effort. Why is there no such analysis in the FMP? Moreover, given the fact that there is a lot of surplus school capacity due to enrollment decline, it makes no sense to invest money on surplus school facilities. It's necessary to consolidate school facilities before making a FMP for every existing school site. Case studies show taxpayers can save millions of dollars with school consolidation, which will benefit students and their families as well.

9. Lack of technical analysis

When it comes to educational technologies, it's important to identify exactly what we are talking about. Technologies come and go, each with a different lifespan. We need to specify which technologies offer the biggest bang for the buck. General terms such as "baseline technology" or "21st century infrastructure" (Bond_Resolution_7-15-14.pptx, Slide 9) are meaningless, because it's impossible to gauge their value and usefulness. Besides, technological innovation is a multifaceted endeavor. It's not just about the equipment and know-how, but it's about personnel training and organizational facilitation as well, All of these have a pricetag, but none of these are mentioned in the FMP document.

10. Transparency and accountability

Proposition 39, which is the key enabler of this new round of school modernization bond, "mandates citizen watchdog committees of local taxpayers, homeowners, parents and business leaders to make sure the money is not wasted." Indeed, there are provisions in the current bond measure for a citizen oversight committee and for bond audits. However, the law says such a committee shall be appointed by the school board. Given the fact the majority of the current school board have consistently avoided and/or rejected public input, and given the lack of transparency and accountability with the previous school bond, taxpayers have ample reason to be skeptical about the transparency and accountability with the use of the new school bond, should voters approve it.
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Based on the 10 questions and concerns listed above, it's clear that the current FMP and bond measure are flawed. The issue is not with what they are intended for, but with how they are prepared and how they will be implemented. Until these questions are answered and these concerns addressed, it's difficult to support the FMP and bond measure as they stand now.

 


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