Cuesta College moves forward with bond measure proposal

acornejo@thetribunenews.comDecember 5, 2013 

A bird's-eye view of Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo.

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

Cuesta College could successfully seek a bond of up to $347 million for repairs, new buildings and programs, according to a consultant hired by the college to determine the feasibility of putting a bond on the 2014 ballot.

Trustees agreed to move forward with planning for a bond measure Wednesday but have not yet discussed how much money they will ask voters to approve.

Trustees said they didn’t want to make the same mistakes that the board did in 2006 when it sought a $310 million bond measure that failed.

“It is a good reminder to be very studious, listen very well to what the voters are saying and act on what they are telling us,” said Patrick Mullen, board president.

Fifty-five percent of voters are needed to pass a general obligation bond.

“A Cuesta College bond is viable,” said Catherine Lew, president of the Oakland-based Lew Edwards Group. “This is only the first step. The college must continue communicating why it is needed but clearly the community supports it.”

A telephone poll of 600 registered voters in mid-October by FM3 Research found the following:

  • Sixty-nine percent of people polled would either "definitely” or “probably” support a bond measure; 34 percent said "definitely.”
  • Seventy percent agreed that Cuesta College needs additional funding.
  • Responders equally support a large bond versus a smaller one.

Voters were asked about their support of a bond in three different amounts: $347 million, $280 million and $200 million. Support of the bond measure consistently remained nearly 69 percent for all three options.

The poll found that reducing the dollar amount of the bond would not significantly impact community support for it.

A $347 million bond would cost homeowners $25 per $100,000 of assessed value annually. Superintendent Gil Stork noted that is the maximum amount the college could seek.

A $280 million bond would cost taxpayers $20 per $100,000 of assessed valuation annually, and a $200 million would cost $14 per $100,000 of assessed value.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

“Repairs and upgrades at our local community college campuses are needed to support vital educational and job-training programs and ensure Cuesta College remains a strong, educational resource for future generations,” Stork said in a press release.

In Paso Robles, the college's North County campus needs four buildings, which could cost more than $80 million. The four new buildings being contemplated are a campus center for student services, a trades and technology center, a building with additional classrooms, and an early childhood development center.

An estimated $100 million in facility repairs and upgrades also are needed at the San Luis Obispo campus, college officials say.

The majority of buildings on that campus are more than 30 years old, built before current technology. The aging buildings need new roofs, air conditioning and heating. Additional classrooms are also needed for math courses.

“The problems are not going away and the needs are not going away,” said Stork at Wednesday’s board of trustees meeting.

Trustees have until Aug. 8 to notify the county clerk that they plan to put a bond measure on the November ballot.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.

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