Fate un­clear for $15 bil­lion school up­grade bond

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Christo­pher Weber

LOS ANGELES » A $15 bil­lion bond to ren­o­vate Cal­i­for­nia’s ag­ing schools trailed in elec­tion re­turns Wed­nes­day, but the gap was ex­pected to close as sev­eral mil­lion out­stand­ing votes were counted.

Propo­si­tion 13, the only statewide mea­sure on the pri­mary bal­lot, would pro­vide funds for new con­struc­tion and re­pairs at cam­puses deal­ing with prob­lems like leaky roofs, old wiring and toxic mold.

The “no” votes led early, but the mar­gin could tighten as bal­lots roll in from heav­ily Demo­cratic ar­eas, in­clud­ing Los Angeles County, where the mea­sure has strong sup­port.

Prop. 13 needs a sim­ple ma­jor­ity to pass.

“There are lit­er­ally mil­lions and mil­lions of bal­lots still to be counted — and they’re over­whelm­ingly votes cast by Democrats who sup­port the in­vest­ment in safe schools,” said Dan New­man with the Yes On 13 cam­paign. “That’s why with ev­ery up­date, Prop. 13 moves closer to 50 per­cent.”

Some $9 bil­lion from the mea­sure would go to K-12 schools, with pri­or­ity given to ad­dress­ing health and safety con­cerns such as re­mov­ing as­bestos and elim­i­nat­ing lead from drink­ing wa­ter.

Of that, $5.8 bil­lion would go to up­dat­ing school fa­cil­i­ties, fol­lowed by $2.8 bil­lion for new con­struc­tion and $500 mil­lion each for char­ter schools and fa­cil­i­ties for tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion.

Sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing Gov. Gavin New­som, ar­gue the need is cru­cial. The bond pro­posal is backed by teach­ers and fire­fighter unions, school boards and Demo­cratic state law­mak­ers.

Op­po­nents say Cal­i­for­nia has a large bud­get sur­plus and shouldn’t bor­row more money. Tax­pay­ers would owe an es­ti­mated $11 bil­lion in in­ter­est over the next 35 years as a re­sult of Prop. 13, ac­cord­ing to the non­par­ti­san Leg­isla­tive An­a­lyst’s Of­fice.

The main op­po­si­tion comes from the Howard Jarvis Tax­pay­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, which takes is­sue with a pro­vi­sion that nearly dou­bles the limit on what a lo­cal school dis­trict can bor­row, from 1.25% to 2% of as­sessed prop­erty value. The group fears that could lead to fu­ture tax in­creases.

Spokes­woman Su­san Shel­ley said Wed­nes­day that with op­po­si­tion votes lead­ing, “it cer­tainly ap­pears that vot­ers were con­cerned that this mea­sure would raise lo­cal prop­erty tax bills.”

The state should fund school fa­cil­i­ties it­self rather than adding to school dis­tricts’ debt, she said.

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