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Plumas Unified backs the Proposition 13 education bond

Misinformation on social media links it to the old proposition — it’s not

A state bond that will help fund public school and community college district building projects is on the March 3 Primary ballot. Because the proposition numbering system recycles every decade in California, the timing has unfortunately come to be assigned the unlucky number 13.

That makes this bond measure Proposition 13 in California. To say that it may conjure up the 1970s era property tax battle that many still remember as Prop. 13 would be an understatement.

To make matters worse, there is a measure appearing on the November ballot that tackles the original Prop. 13 by creating a “split roll” property tax. In essence, it would keep the original Prop. 13 residential property tax in place, but it would allow for an increase in taxes on some commercial properties.

The two separate funding measures are being conflated in some people’s minds, with social media posts decrying a “Prop. 13” that will dismantle the residential property tax protections begun in 1978. It’s not true and may have the unintended effect of causing some voters to say no to the new state bond aimed at funding public schools (including charter schools), community colleges (including Feather River College), state university, and University of California renovation and new construction projects.

Here’s what Prop. 13 will do according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, a non-partisan agency that provides fiscal and policy analysis and advice to the California legislature.
It will allow the state to “sell $15 billion in general obligation bonds to fund school, community college, and university facility projects.”

Also, it will allow public school and college districts to issue more local bonds by increasing the limit from 2.5 percent to 4 percent of assessed property value. Local districts use these bonds to cover their required share of project costs. 55 percent of voters must approve these local bonds.
Prop. 13 replaces the old first-come, first-served system with a new funding distribution formula for K-12 school districts that gives priority and a bigger share of money to “districts struggling to raise money.”

Top priority will go to: 1) schools with the greatest student health and safety needs; 2) schools needing to remove lead from water at their facilities; and 3) districts with a very small tax base.

To solidify their commitment to these financially strapped school districts, 10 percent of the bond money will be reserved for those with 2,500 or fewer students. Further, low-income, low-property wealth districts will get up to 5 percent more of the state matching money, according to Nov. 7, 2019, and Jan. 31, 2020, EdSource articles. These changes are likely to benefit Plumas County schools.

What it means locally

The funds will be used to renovate old buildings —especially those with fire safety and seismic deficiencies. It will allow schools and colleges to build new safe and modern classrooms that address the needs of 21st century learners. In the case of FRC and other community colleges, it will allow construction projects that create more “workforce-ready” graduates, according to a California Community College bulletin on Prop. 13. Without this funding source, community colleges will be forced to use operating funds “in direct competition for the resources needed to educate students.”

FRC currently has two main construction projects in the pipeline, said president Kevin Trutna. The first is a remodel of the multi-purpose/gym building. The second is the construction of a new instructional building that would replace all of the portable classrooms at the top of campus, which are about 50 years old.  The instructional building will not add square footage, it will replace the upper campus with “modern buildings equipped for modern technology and teaching techniques,” said Trutna.

According to the Legislative Analysts Office, $9 billion of the funds will go to school districts, while the other $6 billion will be divided evenly between community colleges, the state university system and the University of California.

Of the $9 billion earmarked for K-12, $5.2 billion will go for renovation projects and $2.8 billion will fund new construction. Charter school facilities and career technical program facilities will each get $500 million.

Plumas Unified School District’s Board of Directors passed Resolution 1570 in support of Prop. 13 during its January meeting. In part, the Resolution noted that PUSD has a backlog of “$122 million in facility needs.” These projects depend significantly on state bond funding. Further, the

Resolution noted the importance of updating facilities to serve 21st century student needs. They highlighted funding for career technical education facilities, which will provide “job training to meet the workforce needs of California’s employers and help ensure successful futures for our state’s students.”

Lisa Cavin, Plumas Unified School District’s chief financial officer, noted that all previous bond funds have been used or are currently earmarked for long overdue projects.

“Without the passage of the new ballot measure,” she said, “schools will be placed on a waiting list for reimbursement until someday in the future when another bond passes.”

The state has typically used bonds to fund educational facilities projects. The voters’ approval allows the state to sell these bonds to investors. The bonds provide construction project funds.

Then, the state repays investors, with interest, from its general fund. The LAO estimates that it will cost the state about $740 million per year (including interest) over the next 35 years to repay the bonds.

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