Voters in November passed Measure Q, thereby enabling the Solano Community College District to sell $348 million in bonds. The stated purpose was to construct, renovate and furnish facilities on the three campuses. Our Citizen/Taxpayer Group opposed the measure because of the huge amount to be borrowed and the tax burden that it would entail.
Furthermore, the ballot measure listed no specific projects or dollar amounts. So where was the money going? One Solano College board member – just one – asked that question. She was ignored. In our ballot argument, we called it a “blank check.”
The district sold the first $120 million of bonds this summer. Taxpayers will see the damage when property tax statements come in the mail this month. That new tax assessment will be in addition to what we’re now paying for 2002′s Measure G, which will be on our tax bills for another 20 years or so. Don’t forget, they can still borrow $228 million more.
Some background: Proposition 39, passed by voters in November 2000, lowered the threshold for passing school bond measures from two-thirds to 55 percent of the votes. One of its requirements was that voters be given – this is the key rule – a “list of the specific school facilities projects to be funded . . . .” That way, taxpayers can decide whether the proposal is reasonable. After Proposition 39 was adopted, most school districts observed that rule and the great majority of their bond measures were approved by voters.
A state appeals court ruled in 2007 that specific projects need not be identified in the ballot measure – only “the particular types” of projects. It appears that Solano County used that interpretation in crafting Measure Q. Earlier this year, however, a different appeals court ruled that a school district cannot do things that were not listed in the ballot project list. So, at this time, a list of specific projects remains the law.
Our question is this: How did Solano College decide on a $348 million bond measure with no idea of how to spend that amount? Our group members have researched online district records and have not found an answer to that question. Every Facilities Master Plan prior to the November election, and one since, is labeled “draft” – and none total anywhere close to $348 million.
We filed a request back in June under California’s Public Records Act, asking the district how it arrived at the $348 million amount. We were given access to some documents, but, so far, nothing that answers our question.
Think about it – $348 million is a lot of money. We’ve done our best to find how that sum became Measure Q’s target. After nearly four months of asking and waiting, we can only conclude that Solano College – for some reason – doesn’t want to tell us.
George Guynn Jr. is president of the Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group. Reach him by email at email@example.com.