The Cuesta College PR campaign promoting Measure L overflows with buzzwords and related jargon aimed at persuading voters to vote for the measure. However, once you get past the rhetoric and review, the fact is that it is clear the bond measure should be defeated.
The structure of the proposed bond measure is problematic in that $140 million is allocated to the years 2015 and 2018, while $135 million is to be spent in the years 2021 and 2024. How can the college reliably forecast costs seven and 10 years out? Certainly, the funds allocated for the out years will fall short of fully covering those projects.
Further, the 2015 and 2018 disbursements allocate $21 million to retire debt for prior construction projects, which speaks to questionable judgment on prior projects undertaken by the college.
A major share of all four disbursements involves repairs and upgrades to existing facilities as well as “21st century technology upgrades.” The board and management of any major private enterprise that is successful over the long run understand the necessity to maintain facilities in good repair and to provide regular budgeting for advances in technology.
Why have these costs been deferred at Cuesta College over the years to the point that now many millions of dollars are required to remedy these problems? Clearly, there has been a longstanding lack of focus by the trustees toward these essential matters.
Undoubtedly, had these costs been adequately budgeted over the past 30 years, the questionable economics and financial sustainability of the college would have been recognized years ago.
The North County Job and Career Training Facility, in particular, has questionable merit and will not be completed until 2022. The facility cost is only one part of this endeavor, and the college leadership has told us nothing regarding the long-term fiscal aspects of operating the facility. Nor has it made a convincing case for why a new dedicated facility is needed to deliver this job-training mission.
Speaking of delivering mission, what about the trend at many colleges and universities toward online classes, and what is Cuesta College doing in this area? A predicate question before any new facilities are authorized is: What is the classroom utilization, and how will that utilization change in the future with increased online offerings?
The most compelling use for bond funds may be the replacement of portable classrooms and buildings at both campuses — to the extent that those classrooms are needed. Had the college focused on this project with an appropriate bond amount, that may have been acceptable. Rather, they relied on problematic survey data indicating (ephemeral) support for their comprehensive wish list. Further, budgeting to start remedying deferred building repairs as well as technology upgrades needs to begin next fiscal year rather than allowing these costs to continue to pile up and later looking to bond funds to cover what are routine period costs.
Lastly, why don’t we hear discussion regarding the feasibility of a merger with Allan Hancock College, which would be logical, ensure long-term delivery of acommunity college mission in San Luis Obispo County and eliminate redundant overhead and other duplications?
Of course, a merger would put existing fiefdoms at risk, which is why we routinely see public sector intransigence to this kind of efficient longterm solution.
The trustees should have an economics faculty member explain to them the theories of Joseph Schumpeter in this regard.