Trustees put bond, parcel tax measures on ballot
Trustees of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District voted unanimously to seek voter approval of two ballot measures in March of 2020 to maintain affordable, quality education at Foothill and De Anza colleges and to help students in need.
The Foothill-De Anza Community College District Affordable Career, College Transfer, Classroom Repair Measure proposes an $898 million bond with an estimated cost to property owners of 1.6 cents per $100 of assessed value. The measure would support capital projects and equipment needs such as upgrading classrooms and labs; expanding job training facilities; repairing deteriorating buildings; replacing infrastructure such as aging gas, electrical and sewer lines; and further investing in online education so working students can continue their studies.
The Educational and Teacher Excellence Parcel Tax is a five-year $48 per parcel levy that would raise approximately $5.6 million annually starting in 2020-21. The funding would be used to help attract and retain outstanding faculty, support students’ needs for food and housing security, and expand and enhance career training and university transfer programs for local students and veterans.
Foothill-De Anza serves about 60,000 students a year and needs to maintain its facilities and classrooms to protect the community's investment in its colleges and to ensure that they remain high-quality institutions ready to serve future generations of students.
“These measures would provide stable funding over multiple years that the state can’t take away,’’ said Chancellor Judy Miner. “Having predictable funding we can count on would help Foothill and De Anza colleges continue to offer the affordable, high-quality education that local students and families rely on for the broad education they need to prepare for transfer and careers.
“The cost of attending California’s public universities is now at least five times that of attending Foothill and De Anza,” Miner said. “It is essential that our colleges continue preparing local students for jobs in high-demand fields and to continue their education at four-year universities. This requires attracting and retaining outstanding faculty and keeping educational programs and facilities up to date.”
Students, faculty and staff who spoke at the Nov. 25 board meeting urged trustees to put both measures on the ballot.
Speakers noted that the high cost of living in Silicon Valley is a growing challenge when it comes to hiring and keeping faculty and has left many students hurting for food and shelter. In fact, 52% of Foothill-De Anza students who responded to a campus survey last year reported experiencing food and housing insecurity and 16% reported experiencing homelessness.
Before bringing the ballot proposals to the board, the district surveyed local residents and top administrators met with dozens of community leaders and organizations to discuss educational priorities. A poll of district residents conducted in August showed that 69 percent of respondents said they would support an $898 million bond and that 73 percent of likely March voters indicated they would vote “yes” on a parcel tax.
Community members who participated in the polling gave the highest priority to retaining faculty and to preparing students for university transfer and good-paying jobs in fields like healthcare, nursing, technology, engineering/sciences, manufacturing and public safety services such as emergency medical technicians and paramedics.
They also gave high marks to improving accessibility for students with disabilities, upgrading classrooms and labs for STEM-related fields, and improving and maintaining classrooms and labs used for career training.
Responding to the growing awareness of hunger and housing insecurity among community college students, a high proportion those polled also said it is important for the colleges to support students who face food insecurity and homelessness and to expand campus mental health services and counseling.
“We have heard over and over again from our students that they need reliable access to food and housing to be successful in college,” Chancellor Miner said. “It’s hard for students to learn when they are hungry and tired and worried. We also need to do everything we can to continue to attract the outstanding faculty for which Foothill and De Anza colleges are known.”
A staff presentation to the board on Nov. 4 gave examples of $1.5 billion in capital facility and equipment needs that the colleges have identified. The examples include improving accessibility for students; improving infrastructure in classrooms and buildings, including campus safety; promoting conservation; and exploring potential housing opportunities.
The bond resolution includes language that would allow for a variety of facility renovations such as improvements to increase energy efficiency and acquisition of equipment, instructional material and technology that will be needed over the next decade to help students learn new skills and find better paying jobs.
Since district's facility and equipment needs exceed the amount of the proposed ballot measures, the campuses would have to prioritize which projects would go forward based on community needs. Bond funds could not be used for salaries or other operating expenses, and the parcel tax could not be used to pay for the salaries and benefits of administrators.
Both measures would require annual independent audits and formation of an independent citizen oversight committee to ensure that the funds are spent as authorized by the voters.
Posted Nov. 25, 2019