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Proposition would mean new library for college

Jon Stephens would probably kick up his heels if Proposition 47 passes in November. Then he would rub his hands together to get ready for the real work.

Stephens, vice president of business services at Lake Tahoe Community College, has been campaigning on his own time informing friends, city officials and others to vote for Proposition 47, a ballot measure that proposes using $13.05 billion for new construction and modernization of existing California schools.

If passed by a simple majority, the bill will provide LTCC with the $9 million needed to build a nearly 25,000-square-foot library and art building to the left of the main entrance in 2004.



Currently the college has a 5,500-square-foot library on the second floor above the student commons area.

If the bill doesn’t pass, the project’s development will be shelved, Stephens said.




“What we did was take a calculated risk that some bond issue was going to come forward,” Stephens said. “We went ahead and started development plans, hoped there was a statewide bond to fund and the last piece that falls in place is voter approval.”

Experts believe about 46,000 new classrooms will have to be built in California in the next several years to alleviate overcrowding and provide room for incoming students. Higher education facilities in California, which includes community colleges, state schools and universities, expects more than 700,000 new students at the end of the decade.

The California community college system already sees high enrollment with this year’s numbers reaching a record of 1,790,000 students, said Chancellor Thomas J. Nussbaum last week.

The $13.05 billion will be shared between school districts with kindergarten through 12th-grade schools and higher education. Currently, about 6.1 million students are educated in the K-12 system and 2.3 million students utilize California’s higher education systems.

In 2004, a related $12.3 billion bond measure will be placed on the ballot. But if Proposition 47 fails in 2002, it will reappear on the 2004 ballot.

To fund the bill, California will pay back the bond and interest accrued over an anticipated 30 years, using 1 percent of their operating budget, Stephens said. With interest, the cost of the bond over 30 years would be over $26 billion.

Assemblyman Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City, supports the bill authored by Assemblyman Robert Hertzberg, D-Sherman Oaks.

California state Senator Thomas Oller, R-San Andreas, voted against the measure, but it passed in April with the two-thirds majority required at 27-11.

Tom Hudson, legislative director for Oller, said the bill poses too many problems during a state budget crisis.

“This is the largest bond in the history of California and the world,” Hudson said from Sacramento. “Our grandchildren will be paying this off for years to come. The nature of bond funding is bonds get paid first. The state can’t put off repaying bonds because there is a major crisis (in the future).

“If disaster strikes, we’ll either have to raise taxes or do without because the bond money needs to be paid back first. So we need to be very careful about issuing more bonds.”

There are several other problems with the proposition, Hudson said. He stated a large portion of the bond is reserved for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The district already receives too much money, Hudson added.

“People in El Dorado County and Placer County will be paying off the rest of this bond even if none of the money is spent north of Los Angeles County,” Hudson said. “That’s unfair to carve out money like that for one district.”

Steve Morales, district facilities manager for Lake Tahoe Unified School District, said if Proposition 47 passes, the district will be reimbursed with more than $10 million.

“This is all reimbursement for state approved projects that we went forward with even though the state didn’t have the money,” Morales said.

Measure C, passed in 1999 by South Lake Tahoe voters, provided the district modernization money that included $3 million to South Tahoe Middle School and $900,000 to South Tahoe High School.

The statewide proposition will help fund future modernization projects at Meyers and Sierra House elementary schools, which already have the planning and state approval cost paid for, Morales said. South Tahoe Middle and High schools will also reap benefits from the proposition.

In addition, the school bus and warehouse building will be improved and expanded.

Morales anticipated the $10 million in reimbursement money will be mostly spent on the projects. Morales, Superintendent Diane Scheerhorn and LTCC’s Stephens will go to the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce on Thursday to spread the information and discuss the benefits of Proposition 47.

“If if doesn’t pass, our facility improvement program is pretty much at a standstill,” Morales said.

— Contact William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com.


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