Citrus College asks voters to fund campus improvements
by Steven Felschundneff | email@example.com
It’s been a busy election season and Claremont voters have a long list of decisions to make. But one measure seems to have flown under the radar, even though it will have a big impact on local higher education.
The Citrus College Career Education, Repair Affordable Higher Education Measure—also know as Measure Y—would authorize the Citrus Community College District to issue $298 million in general obligation bonds to pay for a host of upgrades at the Glendora campus.
The total debt service is estimated to be $500,383,000, and the final fiscal year of the tax levy would be 2051-2052. If approved, the bonds would generate $16.3 million annually for the listed projects.
On July 21, the Citrus Community College Board of Trustees unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing Measure Y to be placed on the November ballot. In that resolution the trustees noted that attending four-year public colleges and universities is six times more expensive than community college and more families are relying on Citrus for affordable education. They also stated that the college “ensures that low-income and minority students have an opportunity to transfer to the UC and Cal State systems, and to private colleges and universities.”
Citrus College was founded in 1915 and serves nearly 20,000 students annually on a 104-acre campus.
“Measure Y would improve the quality of education at Citrus College by: Retaining and attracting well-qualified teachers; Providing the technology and training facilities needed to prepare students for job skills in demand during the economic recovery; Continuing to provide clean drinking water at college buildings; and Meeting earthquake and fire safety standards,” Citrus officials stated on the college’s website.
Measure Y would fund a series of upgrades to the campus aimed at keeping the school up to date with the latest technology. This would include major construction of a new science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) center; a career technical education center; replacing the existing library with a new facility including a learning resource center; reconstruction and upgrading of the stadium and associated facilities; building a new student union and dining hall; and constructing a veterans success center.
Other big expenditures would bring more of the campus into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as removal of asbestos and lead-based paint. Repairs and upgrades to the school’s infrastructure include the sewer, water, natural gas, storm water, heating, air conditioning and electrical systems.
According to the district, the measure requires strict taxpayer protections to ensure funds are spent appropriately, and the board will establish a citizens’ oversight committee and will conduct annual independent audits. The measure needs 55 percent of the vote to be approved.
“The Measure Y project list was developed as a result of, and in accordance with, the Citrus Community College District’s 2020-2030 Educational and Facilities master plan. As part of the development of that 10-year, comprehensive, collaborative and data-rich plan, a complete analysis of existing facilities was conducted and a comprehensive set of recommendations was developed to complement the educational portion of the master plan,” said Claudette Dain, Citrus College vice president of finance and administrative services.
The estimated property tax levy will be $25 per $100,000 of assessed value, which includes both residential and commercial properties. The median assessed value of real property in the district is $360,000, meaning that a typical tax assessment under Measure Y would be $90 per year, according to Ms Dain.
Communities inside the district include Azusa, Bradbury, Claremont, Duarte, Glendora, Monrovia, and portions of San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, Arcadia, Covina and Irwindale.
The tax would be calculated on the assessed value of real estate and not the current market price of a property.
Proposition 13, passed in 1978, dictates that homes are assessed after a completed sale and then sustain a modest tax increase every year. As a result, a family who bought a home 20 years ago may have an assessed value that is a fraction of their neighbor’s home purchased more recently. When the tax under Measure Y is calculated, the 20-year homeowner will pay significantly less to repay the bond.
In 2004 voters narrowly approved Measure G, which authorized $121 million in bonds to pay for construction and infrastructure upgrades at Citrus College (Citrus College’s Measure G has nothing to do with the Measure G bond measure passed in 2018 to fund school construction here in Claremont).
The goals of Citrus College’s Measure G sound very similar to those of the current measure: expanding academic facilities, including vocational technology and computer labs, as well as repairing leaky roofs, deteriorating plumbing and sewer systems.
However, any appearance of duplication reflects more the large number of old buildings on campus, and because it has been 16 years since Measure G passed, additional maintenance must be done, Sue Keith, vice president of the Citrus Community College District Board of Trustees, said.
Ms. Dain also said the projects planned under Measure Y do not duplicate Measure G. “Citrus College has a number of buildings that were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s, which were not part of Measure G,” Ms. Dain said.
Approximately $5 million of Measure G funding remains but that money has been earmarked for reconstruction of the educational development building. The college is waiting for final approval from the state to begin that project.
On June 25 the college announced that Measure G bonds had been refinanced, taking advantage of current low interest rates, which would save taxpayers an estimated $7.7 million and reduce the term by five years. Property owners will continue to pay for the bonds until 2034.
Ms. Keith said that nearly every project funded by Measure G was completed on time and on budget. She highlighted the student center, which consolidated many campus activities and was built adjacent to a Foothill Gold Line station.
With respect to the current bond measure, she is most enthusiastic about the upgrades to the digital infrastructure, which will add and enhance technology in courses beyond science and engineering.
“Many vocational courses, professions and trades require more technology now and I am excited to upgrade [the college’s] ability to provide that,” Ms. Keith said.
“A poll indicated people were interested in this and that is why the board approved it, so now it is up to the voters,” Ms. Keith said, referring to a survey conducted by the firm FM3, which showed approximately two-thirds of voters would support an education bond.
Asked about the sheer size of the proposed bond measure, Ms. Keith said it was important to keep the college up to date and to train people for new careers, particularly with the uncertainty created by the coronavirus.
“Post-pandemic we don’t know what that will look like. Folks who lost jobs need to be trained for new jobs, which makes it even more important for the college to be able to provide that training,” she said.