The Fresno Unified School District board voted 6-1 Wednesday to put a $225 million bond measure on the November ballot.
The money would be used to attract and retain quality teachers and repair and upgrade schools, according to Fresno Unified Chief Operations Officer Karin Temple. It also might be used to build a new school in the southeast area.
The bond would provide funds when the $280 million Measure Q runs out in 2019. Temple said that just like Measure Q, the proposed bond would not be used for administrative salaries, and the tax rate would not go up.
A majority of 600 voters polled during the summer said that they would support the measure even though Propositions 51 and 55, state measures to provide money for school repairs and public school funding statewide, will also be on the November ballot.
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Trustees Carol Mills and Brooke Ashjian voiced concerns over the proposed bond measure, saying its language is vague. Mills said she wanted more community input and the list of schools that would receive money to be narrowed down before putting the measure on the ballot. Ashjian, who cast the only no vote, agreed.
“For me to get behind it, I would just need a couple things to be assured of,” he said. He noted that the district is in “hot water” due to the federal investigation regarding no-bid contracts that were awarded for Measure Q projects. Ashjian said he too wanted to obtain a list of schools that would get funds from the proposed bond measure.
We don’t want to repeat the sins of the past.
Fresno Unified Trustee Brooke Ashjian
He also spoke of the importance of being transparent about how the money would be spent. “We don’t want to repeat the sins of the past,” he said.
Mills said she was concerned that the proposed bond measure is on a fast track and has not had sufficient scrutiny.
Trustee Christopher De La Cerda disagreed that the bond was being pushed too quickly, saying the district had anticipated since 2009 asking voters to approve a new bond to maintain funding levels when Measure Q funds run out.
Trustee Janet Ryan said the board has had “voluminous input” on how the bond money should be spent through community meetings and each school’s master plan. Ryan said that although community input is important, “We’re not starting from scratch.”
Having funds on hand when Measure Q runs out is vital to keeping schools upgraded and repaired, trustee Valerie Davis said.
“There needs to be a bond, in short,” Davis said.