Endorsing Prop 13: supporting schools, colleges and universities (Opinion) | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Endorsing Prop 13: supporting schools, colleges and universities (Opinion)

Jeff DeFranco / President, Superintendent LTCC
Jeff DeFranco

The Board of Trustees and leadership team at Lake Tahoe Community College are endorsing Proposition 13 on the March 3 ballot and we urge our community to join us in voting for it.

This $15 billion school renovation bond measure provides the funding needed to stop the deterioration of our public schools, from K-12, and community colleges to state universities, including the California State University and University of California systems.

Basic maintenance and facility improvements that were put off or not fully addressed for years will finally be funded, improving the learning environments for millions of students. Locally, Prop 13’s passing paves the way for LTCC to seek state matching funds for construction of a Tahoe Basin Public Safety Training Center. This would help fulfill a promise we made to our community to capture state matching funds to better serve the next generation of public safety professionals.

Prop 13 will also allow the Lake Tahoe Unified School District to maintain its aging buildings in Tahoe’s harsh environment.

Before digging deeper into what Prop 13 is, let’s be clear about what it isn’t: it is not the same Prop 13 that California voters approved back in 1978, which is still in effect and does affect property tax limitations.

The new Prop 13 on the ballot this March shares the same number but is otherwise a completely different proposal. It does not call for a new tax. Rather, it authorizes the state to issue bonds to fix school facilities and to use state general fund dollars to pay the debt back.

Many of our public schools, once a longstanding source of Golden State pride, are in various states of decline due to decades of inadequate budgets. Nowhere is this more apparent than in smaller districts like ours that were underfunded for too long, making basic facility upkeep an annual struggle.

This affects LTCC and LTUSD, but also our neighbors at CSU Sacramento and UC Davis, where so many of LTCC’s transfer students go to continue their education. Your support of Prop 13 ensures that our local students benefit from a complete pipeline of educational excellence, from kindergarten through UC or CSU graduation.

Many districts find themselves repeatedly asking taxpayers to fund local bond measures just to keep aging facilities in working order. This is a direct consequence of years of school and state budgets falling short of what was needed to maintain existing facilities.

Without voter support of local bonds for renovation, districts find it difficult to keep up with scheduled maintenance needs. Prop 13 lessens the ongoing facility funding burden of local school districts and puts the state back into the picture, sharing the funding responsibility.

LTCC found itself in this shortfall situation in 2014 when we asked our community to support the Measure F bond. After 26 years of heavy facility use along with insufficient budgets to meet ongoing maintenance needs, LTCC mounted the Measure F bond campaign.

We asked for $55 million in taxpayer support on the premise that we would leverage that into millions of more dollars through matching state funding. However, due to an increasingly austere budget approach by then-Governor Jerry Brown, matching state dollars were no longer a given.

Still, thanks to a prolonged advocacy campaign in Sacramento, LTCC was successful in getting approximately $10 million of Measure F funds matched by the state in 2019. Thanks to that hard work, the legislative relationships needed to argue successfully for additional matching dollars are in place, but Prop 13 must pass first to make additional state funds available.

Local public safety agencies are counting on Prop 13 funding so it is possible for LTCC to meet its commitment to build a Public Safety Training Center on its campus. This center will provide the space and equipment for training of LTCC’s Lake Tahoe Basin Fire Academy cadets – the people who will be on the front lines of fighting wildfires in the Western United States for decades to come.

It will also provide space for the college’s Emergency Medical Technician program, various Criminal Justice-related programs, and will also house a training venue for an emergency operations center while also providing a real-world emergency center in the event of a fire, earthquake, or other large-scale community event. This facility could serve as a modern headquarters for all local agencies should disaster strike.

LTCC received about one-third of the funding needed for this center through Measure F, but we’ve always known we would need additional state funding to make the project a reality.

We hope you’ll vote in favor of Prop 13 to make additional state facility funds available to support our community. In doing so, you will also make it possible for CSU and UC campuses to shine again, and for K12 schools and community colleges in smaller communities like ours to provide our children and adults with a safe, healthy environment where learning can happen and the state’s educated workforce can take shape.

Jeff DeFranco is the president/superintendent of Lake Tahoe Community College.

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