$3.9 billion in school bonds heads to voters in November

California voters will be asked to approve nearly $4 billion worth of local school bond measures and 18 parcel taxes statewide in the November general election.

Lawmakers recently pointed to a struggling economy and the ever-increasing state debt load as a reason not to support a statewide school facility bond for the upcoming election. But at least 55 different local educational agencies across California will be requesting bond measures to support school construction.

It's gonna be tough in this economy for any measure on the ballot that's looking for dollars," said Jim Esterbrooks, a spokesman for the San Diego County Office of Education. "That's not to say it won't be important to school districts. Schools have taken an incredible beating."

Esterbrooks represents San Diego County school districts, which are asking for a combined $339 million in facility bonds.

By county, the state's biggest dollar requests are coming from Los Angeles at $439 million, San Mateo at $407 million, and Fresno at $323 million.

Substantial individual measures include Measure K in San Marcos Unified for $287 million, Measure Q in Fresno Unified for $280 million, and Measure I in Berkeley Unified for $210 million.

School Employees at the East Side Union High School District in Santa Clara County are asking for a $98 parcel tax to retain and attract teachers and support school programs. The tax would last six years.

At Pomona Unified in Los Angeles County, school board members recently agreed to submit a $96 parcel tax that would bring in an estimated $4 million a year to support teacher training and academic programs. But two of five board members opposed the measure, arguing that the tax burden was high enough for local citizens.

"I've always felt like the issue is not the amount of money but how we spend it ... We as a board need to be smarter on how we spend money," Pomona Board member Andrew Wong told the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

A parcel tax is a flat tax that is usually placed on property owners per lot of land. Parcel taxes for schools tend to be spent on lowering class sizes, supporting personnel, or purchasing school materials. The taxes can be used for facilities, but it is rare.

Local school bonds can only be used for supporting new school facilities or upgrades.

Data used in this article was collected from county registrars statewide and compiled by the Coalition for Adequate School Housing.

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