The State Center Community College District’s $485 million bond, Measure C, was easily approved by voters in unofficial returns from Tuesday’s balloting.
Unofficial final results show 64 percent of voters in favor of the measure. It was on the ballot in Fresno, Madera, Tulare and Kings counties. To pass, the measure needed support of 55 percent of voters.
District spokeswoman Lucy Ruiz said Wednesday that State Center officials are “ecstatic and very, very grateful to voters.”
“It’s going to mean great things for the Central Valley,” she said. “It’s going to mean jobs, and students will have what they need to learn in order to move on to a four-year university.”
Ruiz said the district this week will start hiring underwriters for the bonds and architects for the projects. The college’s board will have to decide which projects to prioritize and establish an oversight committee to oversee the spending on bond projects.
State Center Chancellor Paul Parnell said the bond will be used to construct new buildings, update existing facilities and modernize technology across its campuses – Fresno, Reedley, Clovis, Madera and Oakhurst.
The money will primarily be used to increase vocational programs.
Previously, Parnell said the first priority would be building a new academy for training police, fire and emergency medical personnel. That was a key part of Measure E, the district’s previous bond, in 2002, but a lack of state funding forced officials to table the plans until more money was available.
Upgrading the auto and maintenance training programs comes next. The district will also look to ease parking congestion at Fresno City College.
The district will consider creating a new facility somewhere in west Fresno.
Reedley College will get a new life science building and renovations to its agricultural science building. The Madera Center is to get an academic village, where students and staff members can congregate between classes.
The district will also look into relocating the Oakhurst Center.
Finally, Fresno City College is in line to get a new math and science building. The old one, built in 1973, does not have enough lab space and has had several major plumbing issues in the past decade.
The bond will raise property taxes by $18.50 per $100,000 of assessed value. The district will begin selling the bonds in 2016 and continue for up to 25 years. It estimates the total cost to repay the bonds is nearly $1 billion.
Critics of the bond said it is overly vague and too costly.
Tal Cloud, political director of the Lincoln Club of Fresno County, opposed the measure.
“Certainly the community college district and the campaign pulled a fast one on voters,” he said in an interview Wednesday morning. “They focused on issues that made voters feel good, like helping veterans and training more police.”
Cloud believes the bond doesn’t guarantee that anything will ever be built.