Cuesta trustees eye bond measure of $200 million-plus

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

The Cuesta College Board of Trustees appears committed to putting a bond on the Nov. 4 ballot to pay for needed infrastructure repairs but has yet to reach a consensus on how much voters will be asked to pay.

As trustees discussed bond options ranging from $84 million to $343 million during a board meeting Wednesday, it became clear that they did not want to pursue the maximum amount amid concerns that voters would not be willing to pass it.

Several board members expressed interest in an amount ranging from $250 million to $286 million.

“I am torn between choosing what will get us as close to what we need and still be palatable ... everything we need is close to the max,” said board President Pat Mullen. “Any money is better than no money and right now we have no money.”

No one spoke during the public comment period.

The bond measure, described as the Cuesta College Education, Job Training and Campus Repair Measure, could be used to fix existing buildings, construct new ones, improve technology and pay off past loans used to make repairs.

The bond could not be used to pay salaries or pensions.

College President Gil Stork said state funding for such projects has been significantly cut.“Private, local bonding is going to be a way of life to modernize and update facilities,” he said.

Trustee Charlotte Alexander said that voters need to be informed that bonds are the future of education funding. A survey will be conducted by consultant Lew Edwards Group starting July 17 to gauge voter temperament. The last survey done was at the end of 2013.

Trustees decided Wednesday to include a bond amount of $286 million in the latest survey.

“There is never going to be a good time and our time is here,” said Trustee Barbara George. “I really want this for us but I want to make a good and informed decision — one that will advance the college.”

Cuesta College has not passed a bond since 1974 when voters approved an $8.5 million bond for construction of new facilities to complete the campus. The college tried to pass a $310 million bond measure in 2006 but failed to get voters’ approval.

Cuesta has a long list of needed maintenance and repairs that includes leaky roofs, cracked asphalt and improving classrooms that have little access to technology because of their age. Aged pipes and electrical systems, and failing heating and cooling systems have outlived their lifespan, said Terry Reece, director of facility services, planning, and capital projects.

The college needs an estimated $140 million to make the repairs needed at both the San Luis Obispo and the Paso Robles campuses.

Cuesta is also looking at an $84 million cost to replace 18 modular buildings on both campuses — something that is required by state law to meet current California architectural standards.

A 55 percent voter approval is needed to pass a general obligation bond. Voters in both San Luis Obispo County and part of southern Monterey County would be asked to pass the measure because the college’s boundaries are in both counties.