FAIRFIELD — Two local taxpayer groups are taking issue with Solano Community College’s spending habits and would like Measure Q land purchases and remodeling plans to stop until the college has its academic house in order.
The Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group and the Solano County Taxpayers Association are in “discussions” with an attorney and also sent a letter to college Superintendent/President Jowel Laguerre, the college’s board members and several other organizations, such as the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.
At issue is the $348 million Measure Q bond passed by voters in November 2012 to make improvements at the college. The college just purchased property adjacent to the Vallejo and Vacaville centers to expand. The board also approved a lease of a building on Georgia Street in Vallejo in order to move the automotive program out of Armijo High School. The program will eventually be located at the Vallejo Center.
The taxpayer group letter states, in part: “. . . as stated in Solano Community College’s mission statement, the goal is to educate its students. Period! Until full accreditation is achieved, there should be no purchase of land and all new building and remodeling of classrooms, libraries, theaters, etc. should be curtailed . . . . Any such remodeling should be conducted only if it is required to achieve accreditation.”
Laguerre said the college is accredited and always has been. He also said that there is no such distinction as partial accreditation.
“You’re either accredited or not accredited,” he said.
The college has battled accreditation issues since the mid-2000s, going into show cause status – one step away from losing accreditation – in February 2009. It currently is in warning status under the watchful eye of the accrediting commission.
It’s not the only community college that has landed in trouble. In 2009, Solano College and Diablo Valley College were the only two public institutions sinking as low as show cause status, but in 2006 similar sanctions led to Compton College losing its accreditation. Lassen Community College also found itself in hot water about the same time but never reached show cause status.
These days it’s City College of San Francisco that is battling institutional woes. It faces losing its accreditation later this year.
“They’re still on warning status,” said George Guynn Jr., president of the Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group, of Solano College. “What happens if they end up like the City College of San Francisco and get shut down? If they got shut down and have all this money invested in land and other property, they could end up like the city of Fairfield.”
Guynn referenced the purchase of property by the city’s redevelopment agency. When the governor pulled the plug on redevelopment, the city – and others throughout California – was forced to sell downtown property for less than the purchase price.
“That’s not protecting taxpayers’ investments,” he said.
Ourania Riddle, president of the Solano County Taxpayers Association, echoed Guynn and the letter, saying “the purpose of their existence is to educate our students and not buy buildings for museums.
“Education of the students should be the No. 1 priority and that’s why we wrote the letter,” she said.
Laguerre said the letter is inconsistent with what the college needs to do to stay accredited and improve.
“We have classrooms that are just inadequate to provide quality instruction and not taking care of them could really put us in jeopardy with accreditation,” he said. “I think what’s important is that almost 64 percent of the taxpayers in Solano County and Winters voted for us to use bond funds to take care of issues at the college and that’s what we intend to do.”
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.