Renovation and modernization of our public schools is challenging in California. Annual state spending barely supports the routine maintenance of existing schools. As school facilities age and literally wear-out, the need for renovation and modernization is inevitable and unfunded by the State.
In 2016, I advocated that the school district create ballot measures that were focused on the needs of different areas. For example, Ladera Ranch, Escencia, Las Flores, and Talega were relatively new communities with newer schools, and all were (and are) paying Mello-Roos taxes that supported the original construction of the schools. In contrast, San Clemente and Dana Point have never been subject to Mello-Roos, and have much older schools with greater need for renovation and new construction. I felt that the district could not make a single argument for a districtwide school bond that would satisfy our diverse communities. This turned out to be correct, and Measure M was defeated at the polls.
After the 2016 election, the school board as a whole began work to create zones (called School Facility Improvement Districts, or SFIDs) that roughly correspond to areas of similar facility needs and attendance patterns. These SFIDs exclude areas that are paying Mello-Roos school taxes. We engaged an engineering firm to do practical facility-needs assessments for each of our schools, the so-called "Kitchell Reports". These reports provided the board with insight into areas and urgency of need, in contrast to the now-discarded "Facilities Master Plan", that we relied upon in 2016.
For March of 2020, we have proposed ballot measures for two SFIDs, one encompassing San Clemente (without Talega) with Capistrano Beach, and the other SFID for Aliso Viejo, Laguna Niguel, and Dana Point (without Capistrano Beach). Voters in these two areas are asked to approve school bonds that focus exclusively on the needs of the area in which they live. Using the Kitchell Reports, the school board has identified specific projects in each area, with an emphasis on renovation and new construction at the high schools.
I enthusiastically support this plan. Our schools must remain competitive with nearby communities that feature modern school facilities. To respond to this obvious need, I believe voters will support justified and specific improvements to schools nearby where they live, while voters are less inclined to be enthusiastic about nebulous regional or district-wide taxation. The CUSD 2020 measures are designed to target and benefit individual communities and to be accountable to those communities. These measures benefit everyone living in these areas, directly or indirectly, by keeping the local schools modern, competitive and safe.
Finally, the 2020 measures are a product of consensus among people of differing political views. I'm proud to have participated in forming this consensus and enthusiastically support both measures. Ultimately, the voters in these two areas decide for themselves, but I believe CUSD has offered two excellent measures for their consideration, both measures are worthy of support.