School Bonds | Wake up Ventura… There’s A BILLION Dollars on the June 2018 Ballot!



By Deborah Baber Savalla

School bonds are for buildings! Not a DIME goes to kids! Not a PENNY to education! Where do our taxpayer dollars really go? Proponents of school bonds say “It’s for the kids!” But is this really true? Common sense and a  picture make the case AGAINST school bonds! Further, it is worth noting that (1)California ranks 42nd in education in the nation and (2) Governor Brown’s current budget has OVER $95 billion allocated for K-12!

There are three school bonds on the June 2018 ballot. They total nearly ONE BILLION DOLLARS! Yes, you read that correctly, nearly a billion dollars! Proponents of school bonds will say the figure isn’t correct since the bonds themselves advertise a face-value of only $503,200,000. However, when you add the actual finance charges (instead of simply citing the rate) the figure for the bonds balloons to just under a BILLION DOLLARS: $906,500,000. The Districts are seeking nearly a billion dollars of our money but only advertise a price tag of about half that amount. Why is that?

When buying a home for $500k, a person and his or her lender has to answer the question: What is the TOTAL projected cost? School bonds are no different so why are their proponents not more forthcoming with the TOTAL figure? A reasonable person wants to know the total tab BEFORE making a decision.

If the chicken on the menu is $15 and you order it along with a few side dishes and a salad and the server doesn’t tell you those are “extra”, you are not likely to look kindly on that eatery when the bill you are presented with is $30! Who writes a blank check for the small print or hidden costs? Not me if I can help it!

The three bonds on the June 2018 ballot total nearly $1 billion dollars once finance charges are factored in. That amounts to nearly $1,200 PER PERSON in Ventura County. The cost of these bonds, if passed however, will be spread ONLY over populations in Camarillo, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Somis, and surrounding areas. That price tag averages over $3,000 PER PERSON. (1) 

Here are but a few reasons to VOTE NO on School Bond Measures  (Oxnard Union High School), Measure B (Hueneme Elementary), and Measure C (Pleasant Valley)

  1. School bonds are strictly for buildings. By law the money cannot be spent on salaries nor can it be used for operations or overhead, this includes classroom instruction.
  2. School bonds are promoted by and sold at the CASH Annual Conference on School Facilities held in Sacramento in February. (It is crazy that the middle-man organization calls itself CASH! – California Coalition for Adequate School Housing.) The conference bills itself as having over 1,500 school facility and district attendees and markets paid sponsorship opportunities as, “…the perfect venue to promote your products and services, develop brand awareness, distribute information, and conduct business.” (2)
  3. CASH tells voters who visit the website to: “Write your legislators NOW. REPAIR Our Schools NOW.” (3)
  4. CASH lobbies financial groups to participate as paid sponsors. In turn, financial bond-packagers, (only a few compete for the lion’s share of business), lobby school districts to buy bonds.
  5. The bond-packagers keep tabs on when, by law, a new bond can be issued based on outstanding debt/assessor ratios.
  6. When a new bond can be legally offered, the bond-packagers market their financial product to school districts regardless of whether there are any actual facility needs.
  7. Bond packagers work with school districts to create pro forma needs that justify the bonds. This becomes all-too apparent when reading bond measures. From year-to-year, bond-to-bond, and district-to-district the bond language is largely the same.
  8. Bond packagers intentionally write vaguely-worded bond measures. Typically, the measures do not state categorically what the money is to be used for and often there are no explicit promises that any of the work described will be done or, if done, can be completed within the budget forecast.

Bond packagers and districts market bond taxes as, “It’s for the kids!” Common sense reveals this phrase to be uttlerly false!

  • “Public school funding is the largest program in the state budget, receiving more than 40% of the state’s General Fund resources. The 2014-15 state budget includes more than $45 billion (K-12).” “Overall spending for California public schools is about $76.6 billion…” (4)
  • California ranks 42nd in the nation in public school education. (5)
  • California scores well below the national average and gets a solid C- despite California Superintendent of Public Instruction Torlakson’s claims to the contrary. (6)

Finally, the law requires that approved bonds be monitored by citizen oversight committees. These committees, however, are appointed by the school district, the very same entity that convinced voters to buy the bond in the first place. This is like to having the fox watch the hen house!  Districts are required to report expenditures and produce audits that a citizen oversight committee is to report on to the taxpayers.

Now for a multi-million-dollar question: Where did the money go on previously-issued school bonds? The answers are nearly impossible to find! (OUHSD wants another $625m dollars!)




Deborah Baber Savalla: I am a former New York City book publishing executive with over 20 years of experience. I believe in moral clarity because it leads naturally to personal responsibility which WILL RESULT in small governments. I am privileged to work for Citizens Journal. I write columns and editorials for the Journal as a private citizen. I strive to be scrupulous when identifying my work as a private citizen versus that of a reporter or Journal contributor. The views expressed as a private individual are mine alone and are not necessarily that of Citizens Journal. 

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