We’ll say this much: It was a gutsy move for the Cuesta College Board of Trustees to even consider putting a $100 million bond measure on the November ballot.
But if ever there were a “Whoa Nellie!” moment, this is it.
The Board of Trustees is attempting to do too much, too soon. It’s also woefully underestimating voters if it expects them to support a bond measure when the college is at risk of losing its accreditation.
Cuesta should forget about a bond election and concentrate on its most important task: nailing accreditation.
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We don’t want resort to scare tactics, but this is Cuesta’s last chance to convince evaluators that the college has what it takes to function independently. If the community college fails its accreditation test yet again, it may have to cede control to some other entity, such as Hancock College in Santa Maria.
We don’t expect that to happen. Cuesta appears to be on track to satisfy all requirements: An accreditation team has been meeting regularly and making steady progress. A slew of reports that had been lacking — including a technology plan and a fiscal plan — has been completed.
Yet, who could blame the community for being nervous about the outcome?
After all, Cuesta officials seemed so certain the last time around that they would satisfy the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. Instead, the college was issued an order to show cause — the most serious sanction, short of loss of accreditation — and instructed to develop a closure plan in case it doesn’t succeed in correcting deficiencies.
Given its track record, the troubled college must win back the trust of the community.
Expecting voters to support a bond measure in November isn’t the way to do it. Nor is spending up to $40,000 in taxpayer money for an opinion poll on the bond measure — a move the board could authorize next month.
That proposed expenditure is especially galling, since Cuesta just paid $26,714 for an opinion survey conducted in December. The poll didn’t specifically ask respondents about a bond measure, but there were questions designed to gauge respondents’ familiarity with the college and their willingness to help fund it.
Based on those responses, authors of the survey recommended that Cuesta concentrate on developing its “brand” — and not even attempt a bond campaign until 2014.
That’s excellent advice.
Given Cuesta’s issues with accreditation and the general reluctance of voters to approve tax increases in a weak economy, the timing for a bond measure could not be worse.
On top of that, there will likely be competing tax measures on the ballot, including Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed sales tax increase.
We strongly urge Cuesta College administrators and trustees to abandon the idea of a November bond measure.
Accreditation is critical; a bond measure can wait.
Editorials are the opinion of The Tribune.