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  • EDUCATION

    HUSD board strikes down bond measure

    District seeking $207 million to upgrade facilities
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  • HESPERIA — The Hesperia Unified School District’s efforts to bring a $207 million general obligation bond to the ballot this November fell short Monday night when the school board failed to achieve a super-majority vote of approval.
    HUSD’s board voted 3-2, with the majority in favor of allowing the public to vote on the measure, officials said. However, under Proposition 39, the measure would have needed a 4-1 super-majority to reach the November ballot.
    “I'm disappointed that two board members did not trust the community to vote on this important issue, and instead voted for them,” Superintendent David McLaughlin said Tuesday.
    McLaughlin said a recent tracking poll conducted on behalf of the district showed nearly 66 percent of respondents indicated support for the proposed bond. The measure would have levied an annual $58.58 property tax per $100,000 of assessed value, or $70.30 for the median-valued home in Hesperia.
    Trustees Hardy Black and Cody Gregg voted against the resolution to order the bond measure election.
    “I voted no because I don’t believe there was enough transparency in the bond,” Gregg said, referring to a stipulation in the board resolution that would allow for bond monies to pay off debt.
    HUSD owes approximately $105 million for two Certificates of Participation that were issued in 2004 and 2007, McLaughlin said. The debt was incurred in 2007 to build more schools, he said.
    “I believe the board has an interest in retiring the debt (with the bond measure) especially the one approved in 2007 for $55 million, which was actually approved by Hardy Black and Lee Rogers at the time,” McLaughlin said.
    McLaughlin said the exact amount of bond funds that would have been used to pay off the debt would be determined by the board.
    A presentation by district consultants at Monday’s meeting stated that HUSD has held 45 meetings in the past year to ensure transparency and to allow community input.
    Black said he was not opposed to bringing the bond to ballot, but believed it would have failed.
    “The short answer is because I didn’t want it to fail, and I was sure it was doomed to fail,” Black said when asked why he voted against the measure. “In my 47 years in Hesperia we’ve never had a bond pass.”
    Black also said he didn’t want a “bait and switch” maneuver to occur. And while there were at least nine pages of suggested facility improvement projects listed by HUSD consultants, Black thought plans for the bond funds should have been more specifically stated.
    The proposed ballot language said the money would be used “to repair, renovate, acquire, construct and upgrade neighborhood schools and educational facilities, including upgrading career preparation and job training facilities; upgrading classrooms, science labs, and technology; upgrading fire safety including safety doors, sprinklers, smoke alarms; repairing deteriorating bathrooms and plumbing; and removing asbestos and lead paint.”
    The bond language also calls for that independent audits, citizens’ oversight, and “no money for administrators’ salaries and pensions, and all money spent locally.”
    The district has until Aug. 8 to order an election for the bond measure, and McLaughlin said the board could come back for another vote if a special meeting is called. However, no meeting is currently planned.
    “We’ll see,” McLaughlin said. “I know there’s some work going on. We haven’t given up completely. It’s tough at this point for it to come back. If not, we’ll regroup and come back in 2016 and eventually we will get the facilities we need for our community.”
    To see a copy of a presentation to the board regarding the measure, go to http://www.hesperia.org/ and click on “Meetings, minutes, agendas” from the drop-down menu under “About HUSD.”
    Brooke Self may be reached at 760-951-6232 or BSelf@VVDailyPress.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at @BrookeSelf or @DPEduNews.
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