Politics & Government

Cuesta trustee candidates differ on budget priorities, Measure L

Charlotte Alexander
Charlotte Alexander

The two candidates vying for a seat on the Cuesta College Board of Trustees say their key focus if elected would be the budget.

They differ in their support of a $275 million Cuesta College bond measure that voters will decide on Nov. 4. Incumbent Charlotte Alexander said the bond is necessary because of a decline in state funding to the college.

Her challenger, Peter Sysak, says he doesn’t support Measure L and that the college needs to do better budgeting to plan for future needs.

Three of five seats on the board are up for re-election on Nov. 4, but only one seat will be decided by voters. Two incumbents, Pat Mullen and Dick Hitchman, are running unopposed and automatically win new four-year terms.

The board is composed of five seats representing geographic districts. This is the first election of Cuesta College trustees that will be decided by voters in each district. In the past, candidates had to live in the district represented by the seat they sought, but were elected by voters countywide.

Alexander and Sysak are from District Four, representing Arroyo Grande, Oceano and Nipomo.

Owner of an avocado ranch, Sysak is the former director of public safety at Cuesta College. Alexander, who has a writing and video production business, said Cuesta’s budget priorities “must remain focused on student access and success.”

Alexander said that to meet those priorities, the college may need to increase support for core services, consolidate programs and involve all college stakeholders in strategic planning.

“Development of revenue from sources other than the state must be a priority,” she said. Alexander said her other goals would be maintaining strong administrative leadership and building an educational program that meets residents’ workforce training needs.

Sysak said that to improve its budget, the college needs to focus on increasing enrollment after years of decline. The state pays about $4,500 for each full-time student.

“We need to reach out to students, especially those living in the South County attending Alan Hancock Community College and bring them back into the district where they live and work,” he said.

He said that he would also focus on maintaining the college’s accreditation.

As for Measure L — the $275 million bond that would be used for infrastructure repairs and upgrades — Sysak said he doesn’t support the bond because it asks too much of property owners.

“The bond will take 10 years to spend and 40 years to pay back,” he said. “What is the college going to do in the next 15 years when they need new roofs and new buildings but don’t have the capacity to get another bond because they have already spent the money?”

Sysak said he would be willing to support a bond that was significantly smaller. “For $275 million we can build a brand-new campus,” he said.

Alexander said she supports the measure because the college has existing needs that will no longer be fulfilled by state funding.

“Even if the state was to initiate and pass a statewide bond measure, such funding would likely require a local match involving millions of dollars that we in this county can only raise through such a bond,” Alexander said.

Alexander and Sysak faced off in 2010; Alexander won with 55.4 percent of the vote.

CANDIDATE BIOS

Peter Sysak

Age: 69

Occupation: Owner of J and P Avocado Ranch in Arroyo Grande

Education: Bachelor’s degree in administrative justice, Chapman University

Political party: Republican

Charlotte Alexander

Age: 58

Occupation: Owner and managing partner of Three Cats Two Dogs LLC, a creative services firm for film and publishing

Education: Bachelor’s degree in communication arts and sciences from DePauw University; master’s degree in executive development for public service from Ball State University

Political party: No party preference

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