UCSB and public schools at all levels could benefit from hefty state funding if Proposition 55 passes next week.
Proposition 55, the Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2004, would allow the state to sell $12.5 billion in bonds to investors if it passes. The money would specifically fund the renovation and construction of public school buildings, with $10 billion allocated to kindergarten through high schools, $920 million to the California Community Colleges, $690 million to the University of California and $690 million to the California State University system.
The bonds sold by the state would be paid back with interest to investors over roughly 30 years from the state’s general fund, made up of taxpayers’ income and sales taxes.
UCSB Assistant Vice Chancellor of Public Affairs Paul Desruisseaux said the campus could potentially receive $69 million from the proposition, which would go toward upcoming campus projects.
“Our campus stands to gain $69 million in construction funding, which would go to projects that include the renovation of the biological science buildings and essential upgrades to the campus electrical infrastructure,” Desruisseaux said.
Desruisseaux said Chancellor Henry Yang has not taken a public stance on the proposition but encourages students to learn the issues.
“He knows this is in the best interest of the campus, but it’s not appropriate for him to publish a position,” Desruisseaux said.
The University of California Student Association (UCSA) Board of Directors voted Feb. 7 to endorse Prop 55, UCSA Legislative Director Amalia Chamorro said, because the proposition contributes to the university system in a time of financial crisis.
“This is the time when the UC is being hit with all kinds of cuts to our budget, and this is an opportunity for UC to grow as an institution,” Chamorro said.
The 10 percent undergraduate fee increase proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger comes on top of Gov. Gray Davis’ 40 percent increase of last year, and while this year’s bonds will help to mitigate cuts levied on UC’s budget, the measure may not be enough, Chamorro said.
“At least for now, I’m not sure if that’s a sufficient amount,” Chamarro said. “But right now we’re concerned that we’re not getting enough support from the governor.”
While the measure provides funding for renovation and construction projects on public campuses, Chamarro said there are issues that also require funding that the bond does not address.
“It only deals with facilities and construction costs; it doesn’t do anything to improve instruction,” she said. “The graduate student fees are increasing 40 percent [next year] and these are the people teaching the undergrads.”
As of November 2003, California had $36 billion in bond debt, with $21 billion in authorized bonds that had not yet been sold to investors, according to the California Voter Information Guide. The Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association opposes the proposition because the state cannot afford the additional debt, Executive Director Joe Armendariz said.
“If Prop 55 passes, then 8 percent of the [state’s] general fund would be devoted to paying back bonds, whereas most analysts have determined that not more than 3 percent should be used toward bond payment,” Armendariz said. “Proposition 55 is simply a luxury that taxpayers can’t afford.”
The proposition would require schools at all levels that request funding to submit a request to the state and pay 50 percent of the costs for new construction projects and 40 percent of the cost for renovations, with exceptions available for what the bill calls “hardship cases.” Armendariz said local bond measures at the school district level are more efficient.
“If there is a need at the local level, then school districts should put a measure on the ballot,” Armendariz said. “If Prop 55 passes, there’s no guarantee that any of that comes back to the local schools.”