Another Attempt for School Bond Measure
By Dan E. Nino
I was honored to be invited by our ABC School Board Member Ernie Nishi for a town hall-like meeting on June 9 to discuss the proposed new school bond measure aimed to upgrade the facilities and computer system of the ABC Unified schools.
A public hearing like this will enlighten the populace how to deal with it because it involves hard-earned monies to pay for this $258 million bond to be forwarded this November for referendum.
During this meeting attended by about 50 from the cross-section of mostly Cerritos residents, I was vocal in my opposition. Although I don’t oppose the upgrade of the building or facilities, the funds should not be shouldered again by the over-burdened residents of the cities comprising the ABC School District. Funds for Education and school purposes come from the combined resources of the Federal, State and County governments not to mention the so-called lotto monies. Sometimes in partnership with city governments, they chip in if they have extra money to spare.
We are still paying the 1997 bond measure for the ABC Unified School District to the tune of $165 million. My property tax bill allots $135.22 for this alone We are also paying the $300 million Cerritos Community College bond which was approved without funfare and I pay $190.25 annually. On the other hand, teachers and employees of the ABC School District had received salary increases lately.
Majority of Cerritos residents like me are mostly retired and just get by on fixed income. More tax payments are additional burden on our finances. We have to work part time to make ends meet just to fulfill our financial obligations.
As it is, property taxes are increased by 2% every year because according to L.A. County Assessor’s Office, our property values are also increased by 2% a year. We are already over-burdened by so many taxes and fees We are saddled by a new gas tax, increase in vehicle registration fees, sales tax as a result of the Proposition H approved in 2016 to mitigate homelessness, excise tax, utility tax, income tax, etc. When I first worked with the State Board of Equalization in 1983, the tax rate then was only 6%. Now it’s 9.50 in our city. But our income earnings remain flat. It doesn’t measure up with inflation. Our quality of life is diminished as a result.
We haven’t experienced earthquake for a long time, There are no hurricanes or tornado compared to mid-western states and eastern seaboard. I wonder what’s wrong with our school buildings.
One female resident argued that Cerritos homebuyers buy their homes in Cerritos because of our topnotch school system that make our homes increased in values. I don’t buy that per se. When I bought my home in 1994, I didn’t know that property tax would increase by 2% a year. I was attracted by the park-like environment of our city. When we moved to Cerritos in 1994, we paid only $2,909 for our property tax. Now it ballooned to $5,092.
How about children of families who reside outside of our district but attend our ABC schools Are they paying this bond measure too? It’s not. I learned that 20 percent of enrollees live in Lynwood, Bellflower, Downey and other cities in Orange County. It’s ironic that students who are only a walking distance away from Cerritos High School are assigned to Gahr High School, three miles away just to accommodate students that reside outside of our school district.
Some folks claim that we don’t have enough students that reside in our districts anymore so our schools accommodate students from outside the district because of past presidential decree that “no student should be left behind.” If there are not enough students in our district, why don’t we consolidate our schools and convert these campuses into residential purposes. We have shortage of homes. Remember, most of our children who once attended in these ABC schools are already adults and live somewhere else.
There’s a perception too that if more money are poured into our school, students tend to be high achievers. I don’t buy that notion. Whitney High School, a leading secondary in the nation receive less funding but its students are high achievers. Parents involvement, private donations and their passion and learning curbs make them high achievers
There’s another theory that was propounded. If the population is highly educated, there would be lesser crime. That’s non-sequitur. I own a home in Granada Park, an impeccable neighborhood but a house to my right was burglarized three times under three different owners. Ditto to my left. Knock on wood, my house is spared. Thanks to our dog who bark right away when she smells a stranger or danger lurking.
In my dad’s time in 1920s in the Philippines, there are two classes in one classroom. Then my dad had to walk 10 miles on early dawn Mondays and trudge to the town with his week’s provisions along rough roads, farmlands and rice paddies and back to his village Friday. . Despite these challenges with no computers then, my dad graduated valedictorian and became a successful trial lawyer and eventually chief of the Prosecution Division Bureau of Internal Revenue prosecuting tax evaders and celebrities. In the U.S., students are conveyed by private cars or school buses.
We should exhaust all possibilities to lobby our lawmakers and other government entities for more funding. After all, California Gov. Jerry Brown proudly touted that the State has $6 billion in budget surplus this year.
(This article was originally submitted to Gateway Guardian News)