Anaheim School Board to Reconsider Bond Approval

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A $249 million school bond ballot measure and facilities master plan will come before Anaheim Union High School District officials again Thursday morning, which if passed by voters in November would be the first step in financing more than $1.28 billion in school site construction and improvements.

What still isn’t clear is how the bond money could be used to acquire new properties.

The ballot resolution currently contains language that allows the district to use the bond to finance the purchase of new properties “for the purpose of expanding overcrowded school sites” and to “acquire, renovate, upgrade, construct, furnish and equip facilities at other locations.”

The district has been eyeing a property on Lincoln Avenue, adjacent to Anaheim High School, for more than two years. The facilities master plan, a five- to ten-year document outlining the district’s plans for facility improvements, does not budget for or mention any other property being considered for purchase.

Board trustee Katherine Smith has said she will vote against the bond measure if property acquisition is in the final resolution.

According to Smith, who said she voiced her concerns to other trustees in closed session last Thursday, that language was not included in mailers and e-blasts sent to parents and residents within the district.

“My concern is that the word “acquiring” is going to be on the school bond to the voters and when the voters voted in that survey that they would only vote or a bond that is going to improve our schools,” Smith said last week.

The vote on the bond measure and master plan was delayed last week after Voice of OC reported on a possible open records act violation when the agenda and documents were posted improperly online.

District spokeswoman Pat Karlak noted that a phone survey of stakeholders conducted in January also included property acquisition in the title of the bond measure.

The district is still paying off more than $95.2 million from its last bond program, Measure Z, approved by voters in 2002 and only half as large as the bond program that currently is on the table.

AUHSD faced widespread accusations of mismanagement and a lack of oversight for Measure Z funds. One audit criticized the district for overspending on construction projects, causing a $49 million shortfall, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Since then, AUHSD had created a citizen oversight committee to oversee the use of bond money.

If passed, the $249 million in bonds would be issued on a “just in time” basis, every two years over a ten-year period to reduce the cost of interest payments, according to district staff. A conservative estimate places the total interest cost to be $286 million, if the entire $249 million in bonds are issued, or a debt repayment ratio of 2.15 to 1.

Thursday’s meeting begins at 9 a.m. Read the agenda and attached bond resolution and Facilities Master Plan online here.

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