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By Allison Jarrell

The Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees voted in August to call a school bond election within the newly formed School Facilities Improvement District #2, which encompasses the entire district except for Rancho Mission Viejo. On Nov. 8, district voters will have to decide whether they want to pay more taxes to help the school district leverage state funds for over $800 million in deferred facilities maintenance.

Below is the district’s official summary of Measure M, which will appear on the ballot:

“To upgrade neighborhood schools by repairing outdated classrooms; improving science, technology, engineering, and math labs; ensuring fire/drinking water safety; removing asbestos; replacing leaky roofs; upgrading safety/security; repairing, constructing, and equipping educational facilities to prepare students for college/vocational/military careers, shall School Facilities Improvement District #2 of the Capistrano Unified School District issue $889 million in bonds at legal interest rates, requiring an independent citizens’ oversight committee, annual independent audits, no funds for administrator or teacher salaries/benefits, and all funds used locally?”

Measure M Facts:

  1. If 55 percent of voters approve Measure M in November, the district estimates that residents living within SFID #2—which includes the entire district except for Rancho Mission Viejo—will be taxed $41.81 per $100,000 of assessed value on their homes in fiscal year 2017-18 in order to begin funding the bond. That amount will grow to $42.93 per $100,000 in 2025-26 and reach a maximum of $42.99 per $100,000 of assessed value in fiscal year 2032-33.

*Bonds can only be issued if the tax rate levied does not exceed $60 per year per $100,000 of taxable property, according to the California Education Code.

  1. The total debt service, including principal and interest, for the $889 million general obligation bond would be $1.8 billion. Taxpayers will pay off the bond over a 35-year period.
  1. The Orange County Taxpayers Association has confirmed that Measure M meets the association’s minimum criteria for school bonds; however, the association does not endorse measures. The South Orange County Economic Coalition announced its opposition to Measure M in September because it is “too large and its impacts too broad to support.”
  1. How CUSD will spend the potential new funding is a topic of contention. Measure M states that the proceeds from the sale of bonds would be used for “construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or replacement of school facilities.” The measure lists 53 school sites, including charter schools. Additional expenditures may include “student transportation, food service, maintenance and operations facilities” (excluding the district office). By law, none of the bond’s funds can be used for administrator salaries or pensions. Critics of the measure say the ballot language lacks specificity and transparency.
  1. Should Measure M pass, the district will be required to establish an “independent Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee to ensure that bond proceeds are expended only for the school facilities projects” listed. The district will also conduct an “annual independent financial audit of the bond proceeds until all of those proceeds have been spent for the school facilities projects” listed in the measure.

Wondering what specific improvements are planned for your school? For a complete list of facility projects included in the ballot measure, visit capousd.ca.schoolloop.com.

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