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School facilities bond will be on November ballot

Preparation is continuing apace for a school facilities bond, which the Claremont Unified School District Board of Education voted unanimously to place on the November ballot during its June 17 meeting.

The bond measure will join a busy ballot that includes the presidential election and 17 initiatives. One of these is a half-cent tax increase proposal that, should it pass, would see sales tax in the City of Trees rise from 9 percent to 9.5 percent.

The increase—put forth by the board of directors for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority—would fund street repairs, highway improvements and new rail construction that would support the Gold Line’s journey eastward from its current end at Azusa through Glendora and to Claremont and Montclair. There’s no sunset date on the tax, which would raise some $860 million per year for Metro projects.

CUSD can breathe easier, however, knowing one possible source of competition is off the table.

For months, there has been conjecture a school bond might share the ballot with a bond to fund a new Claremont police station. At its June 29 meeting, however, the Police Station Ad Hoc Committee took a roll call vote, with 14 of 15 committee members voting against bringing a police bond before voters this fall. Reasons cited include the crowded ballot and the need for time to craft the bond and educate the public about the importance of its passage.

The school board has been unflagging in its resolve to move forward since, at a June 2 workshop, all four board members voiced support for a facilities bond measure.

While no vote was held at that meeting, the board arrived at a consensus as to what the bond should look like. The board concluded that the community could support a $58 million bond to fund an array of projects touching every school site in the Claremont Unified School District.

Work covered by the bond would include upgrades in lighting and the HVAC systems throughout the district, improvements that would increase the energy-efficiency of Claremont schools, replacement of the district’s portables with sturdier modular buildings and a renovation of the Claremont High School and El Roble Intermediate School pools. The El Roble pool has been unusable and drained for a few years now.

Other projects a school bond would fund include district-wide roofing improvements; refurbishment of the CHS and El Roble locker rooms; upgrades to CHS’ large gym, including installation of a currently non-existent HVAC system; an overhaul of the CHS music building and a complete remodel of the high school’s student center/food prep facility.

The deadline for the district to file for the bond measure is July 26. CUSD administration and staffers are allowed to advocate for the passage of the bond. As elected officials, the board cannot. However, individual members of the school board and the board as a whole can participate in education about the particulars of the bond and CUSD’s facilities needs.

Board of Education member Steven Llanusa spoke to why Claremont is joining districts across California—from Hemet to Lompoc to Alameda County—in placing facilities bonds on the ballot. He said it’s about a drastic cut made in a time of economic crisis that, despite improvement in the state’s financial situation, has yet to be restored.

“In accordance with Assembly Bill 97, effective July 1, 2013, the deferred maintenance program became inoperative,” Mr. Llanusa said. “Therefore, any facilities maintenance or repairs the school district wants to do must be funded from the general fund budget, which is also used for students and their general education costs. Should the bond pass, we would be able to use bond money for our much-needed facilities repairs and preserve our general fund budget for educational uses.”

The last time Claremont voters passed a school bond measure was 2000 when residents approved Measure Y, which yielded $48,910,000 for facilities repair and maintenance.

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com

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