My Sunday night was interrupted by a telephone survey. I started to hem and haw, but the call said it was about a local community issue, so I agreed and we proceeded with a series of questions. The survey appears to have been commissioned by the Irvine Unified School District to ascertain voter preferences about a possible $558 Million Bond issue that would be placed on the ballot for the November 2016 election.
The caller read me the ballot description three times so there’s no question that the district would like to get $558 million to be spent locally on upgrading older schools with better electrical and Internet/networking infrastructure, roof repairs, improved science labs, new education programs and new technology programs that enhance learning (if the new technology programs are based on the district’s Technology plan drafted primarily by educators and not technologists, its a Bring Your Own Device strategy that doesn’t work well in a business setting let alone six graders through high school and doesn’t adequately address IT security issues at all).
The survey seems to seek the pain point by which a ballot question garners support. Investing in strong public schools has long proven an effective way to attract new residents and new businesses to Irvine. The district is building new schools at a last pace and some of the older schools are showing signs or wear and tear. The survey hammers home the point that none of the funds will be used on administrators’ salaries, but fails to note when a bond starts covering certain education programs, existing budget can be allocated for increasing those same salaries.
Here’s the gist of it. The bond would cost homeowners only $38 per $100,000 in assessed value. Commercial properties are exempt which might include all those apartment buildings owned by the Irvine Company. About half of the residences in Irvine are renters and many people rent here to send their kids to school here because IUSD schools are that good. But if this stands as is, it’s unfair for homeowners to fund this bond while letting commercial property owners skip when they benefit from having great schools here too. I find it hard to be receptive of the bond to IUSD administration that keeps classifying thousands of residents concerned about the chemicals found on the Portola High School site as being “a few disgruntled people” when it is clearly not the case. You don’t remove 70 dumptruck loads of dirt of something “non-hazardous” using “an abundance of caution” as a reason, and expect me to buy that.
Now here’s the thing. There is no bond. And if you got the call I did, there are no supporters of the bond and no opponents of the bond because how can you support or oppose something that’s not official?
What’s missing for things the bond will pay for? Any new programs promoting music education, theater and dramatic arts, art education, or digital arts. It had better be just an oversight.
The April 14 board meeting, the IUSD trustees voted to hire a consulting firm to explore options for a general oversight bond and that includes research and conducting a poll. The board will consider the results of the research and decide to proceed with a bond, the terms and everything else.
The bond that was presented in Sunday night’s call seemed awfully specific for in terms of the money its asking for and how it will be spent as well as how it will be raised. That bond strikes me as unacceptable on a number of fronts; a local tax increase on homeowners only in the amount if wants is going to make me less likely to write a check to the Irvine Public Schools Foundation.
So that $2.40 that Jeff Lalloway is “saving” Irvine taxpayers (it is really a cost per resident of $2.40), would be more than wiped out by a GO bond from the school district.
Time will tell.