MDUSD Missing From List of School Districts Planning Bond Issues on the November Ballot
By Jim Mills
Earlier this month, the East Bay Times endorsed a number of school bond issues that they said were “worthy of voter support”. Here is the list:
- Pleasanton SD Measure I1 ($270 million) would modernize existing schools, build a new elementary school, improve science and technology facilities and upgrade security.
- Martinez SD Measure R ($120 million) would upgrade existing buildings and add classrooms and performing arts and athletic facilities. This follows a $45 million bond plan voters authorized in 2010.
- San Leandro SD Measure J1 ($104 million) would go largely to elementary schools, replacing deteriorated portable classrooms, technology improvements, and upgrading roofs, heating and electrical systems, and plumbing. The district has continuing bond payments from three prior ballot measures, dating back to 1997.
- John Swett SD Measures P ($40 million) would rebuild Carquinez Middle School and Q ($22 million) would finish renovation of John Swett High School.
- Moraga Measure V ($33 million) would make technology upgrades and address basic needs such as leaky roofs, inadequate electrical systems, deteriorating plumbing, outdated heating systems, and seismic retrofit work.
Noticeably absent from this list is MDUSD, even though we are told – and many residents can see – that the district’s buildings need exactly these sorts of repairs and upgrades. Unfortunately for the district, their last bond measure, Measure C in 2010 for $348 million, was accompanied by considerable negative publicity, including: 1) a financial structure that delayed interest payments for 22 years (a form of bond financing that is now illegal and has been abandoned by the district); 2) a failure to work with school sites to properly identify planned projects in advance; 3) a huge expenditure for solar collectors based on projected energy savings that have since never been tracked or accounted for; and 4) the continuing concern that contractors, bond consultants, bond counsel and other consultants were too heavily involved in the campaign for the bond issue.
Whether MDUSD should receive more bond financing is, of course, a matter that only the voters can decide. But until voters can trust the district to handle their money appropriately, we can understand why MDUSD is missing from the list of districts trying to keep their schools up to date. Whether the issue is deciding to raise money, or responsibly spending the money that is raised, we believe basic trust is at stake. It’s another reason for Northgate residents to seek more control over school finances by establishing a Northgate Unified School District.