School board approves school bond for November ballot

Last week, the Claremont Unified School District Board of Education took the final steps to place a $58 million school facilities bond measure on the November ballot.

At their August 4 meeting, the board approved, by a 5-0 vote, a resolution to call for an election within the district and request that the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters conduct the proceedings.

The board also authorized the preparation of election materials to be included in the ballot pamphlet, including arguments and a tax rate statement. The former is meant to inform individual Claremont homeowners how much money will be added to their property tax bills based on the assessed value of their homes, should the bond measure pass.

District staffers delivered paperwork to the county registrar on Wednesday, according to Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Lisa Shoemaker.

Ballot arguments in favor of the bond measure will be prepared by a group of proponents chaired by Claremonter Richard Fass. 

Ms. Shoemaker is unaware of any individual or group planning to campaign against the school bond. If such a group emerges, it is the responsibility of dissenters to submit an argument against the bond measure to be included with the ballot. Arguments both pro and con are due on August 19.

The language of the bond measure, which calls for a yes or no vote, was included in the board meeting agenda.

“To repair, upgrade and make more energy efficient aging classrooms and facilities with funding that cannot be taken by the State, repair deteriorating roofs, heating, air conditioning and electrical systems, and repair, construct, acquire, and upgrade classrooms, sites, facilities and equipment, refurbish pools, locker rooms, and gymnasium, shall Claremont Unified School District issue $58,000,000 in bonds at legal rates, with independent financial audits, citizen oversight, no money for administrator and teacher salaries, and all money staying local.”

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Claremont resident Ludd Trozpek called language on the bond resolution into question, specifically wording that included equipment acquisition among the goals CUSD plans to accomplish with the bond. Mr. Trozpek pointed out that buying equipment wasn’t discussed during the public meetings leading up to the board’s decision to put a school bond before voters this fall.

Ms. Shoemaker said while the district has no plans to replace any equipment, the language is there—and purposely vague—as a safeguard.

“The language needs to be all-encompassing, because you may have side effects of doing construction,” she said in a subsequent interview.

As Ms. Shoemaker had explained at the meeting, the district never knows what’s going to happen when it undertakes renovations. The district might need to replace cabinetry or wiring, for example, if it is damaged or rendered unusable by a new reconfiguration, she said.

“You might have to put in an ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] accessible sink which causes you to have to redo cabinets in the classroom,” Ms. Shoemaker said. “There’s a domino effect that can come along with modernizing classrooms.”

She wants to be clear. “We’re not talking about computers or disposable equipment,” Ms. Shoemaker emphasized. “We understand people don’t want to use a 30-year bond to buy a computer. We’re talking about equipment needs that result from the construction.”

In the months leading up to the creation of the school bond measure, Ms. Shoemaker joined with Superintendent Jim Elsasser in presiding over more than two-dozen meetings with community stakeholders. Their aim was to educate the community about CUSD’s considerable facilities needs and to gather input on what kind of school bond measure, if any, the community might support.

Ms. Shoemaker noted that district employees are not allowed to campaign for the ballot measure during work hours. They can, however, show support for a school bond in their free time.

Ms. Shoemaker will likely attend evening meetings set up by proponents of the bond measure to provide information about the financial side of the equation. 

During school hours, district staff is allowed to engage in education with respect to CUSD’s facility needs. For instance, district employees might schedule tours of the facilities that stand to be repaired should the bond pass.

“There’s an education piece, which is not the proponent piece,” Ms. Shoemaker said. “It’s about letting people see the facilities so they understand the condition.”

The projects that would be undertaken using bond money include roofing at every school site except CHS, which saw a major roofing upgrade last summer; an upgrade of the district’s outdated HVAC systems and electrical upgrades with an eye on greater energy-efficiency; and renovation of the pools at Claremont High School and El Roble—the former of which has been unusable and drained for a few years now—as well as the schools’ locker rooms. 

Further work that would be funded by bond money includes the replacement of portables throughout CUSD with longer-lived modular buildings, upgrades to CHS’ large gym and an overhaul of CHS’s music building and student center/food prep facility.

More information on the bond measure is available on the CUSD website, cusd.claremont.edu.

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com

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