Election: Butte and Glenn counties’ Measure J, a $190 million …



Butte Valley A $190 million education bond measure known as Measure J is on the ballot for voters in Butte and Glenn counties. With a focus of “jobs, safety, veterans,” the measure, also known as the Butte College Repair, Safety, Job Training Measure, would primarily be used to update and expand college facilities.

Specifically, funding from the general obligation bonds would be used to repair and expand general facilities and technology as well as job training facilities for fields such as automotive technology, nursing, law enforcement, welding, engineering, agriculture and early childhood education, and to establish a permanent veterans resource center.

The Butte College board of trustees unanimously voted to place the measure on the November ballot in Butte and Glenn counties. It will require the support of 55 percent of voters to pass. If passed, the college estimates it will result in a tax increase no greater than $25 per 100,000 of assessed value of property in both counties.

Understanding education bonds

Education bonds such as Measure J allow school districts to fund projects over time with a loan that is paid back with taxpayer dollars. If voters approve Measure J, property taxes could increase by as much as $25 per $100,000 of assessed value of property in both Butte and Glenn counties.

School districts then sell bonds, in which the buyer lends money for a set period of time. School districts can use that funding to complete various projects and then pay the buyer or buyers back over time with interest, using money collected from a property tax, like the one that would be levied under Measure J.

Because the loan is paid back over time and the buyers of bonds collect interest, the total cost to taxpayers is more than the actual bond measure on the ballot. In the case of Measure J, the Butte College district is asking for $190 million and the actual cost to taxpayers over time, if all bonds are issued, sold and paid as projected would be $332,099,100, according to the measure tax rate statement.

Measure J isn’t the only education bond measure voters will see on the November ballot. The Chico Unified School District has placed a $152 million bond measure for facilities repairs and improvements before voters. Both Butte College President Samia Yaqub and CUSD Superintendent Kelly Staley have said the measures are complementary and will present on the measures together.

How will the college use $190 million?

From the first day Butte College opened at its current location in 1974, it had already outgrown its facilities, Yaqub said in a recent interview. The school was designed to accommodate no more than 5,000 and on the first day 5,800 students came to campus, considerably more than the 4,000 expected.

The college alleviated this problem in part with the use of portables and at one point had multiple “trailer parks” on the campus, Yaqub said.

In 2002, voters approved Measure A, an $84.9 million general obligation bond to construct, repair and equip classrooms, libraries, labs and other facilities. The college leveraged that bond money with state funding to construct five buildings, including the Chico Center and on the main campus, the Learning Resource Center, the Media Center and the Arts Building

“We leveraged a lot to stretch our measure a dollars as far as possible,” Yaqub said. ”Everything we said we were going to do, we did, on time and under budget. We were really proud of that.”

The resolution for the current bond provided by the college board of trustees asserts that the state is not providing the district with enough money to adequately maintain facilities and programs. Yaqub added that the Butte College board of trustees is careful about moving forward with bonds.

“We have a very fiscally conservative board,” Yaqub said.

Some of the original buildings, which house increasingly popular programs like welding and science courses, are in need of renovation or overhaul, Yaqub said. If the measure is not passed, the college will be unable to construct new facilities.

The worst of these buildings is the welding facility, Yaqub said. The welding program is nationally recognized with a two-year waiting list, but of all buildings on campus, the welding facility had the worst facility condition replacement index on campus, an indication of how viable a building is.

“It’s not condemned, but it’s in pretty bad shape, and it would cost millions of dollars for us to just continue the program in the current facility,” Yaqub said. “It’s an exceptional program. One of our first commitments if this bond passes is a new welding facility that will double its capacity.”

The college also plans to construct a new building for science classes and a public safety training center with an indoor shooting range, combative mat rooms and a scenario village for tactical training for its six academies, including law enforcement, fire academies, State Parks and Fish and Game.

The college would also construct a new science building as science courses are particularly full. Students have to take science courses for general education requirements, major requirements to transfer in STEM fields and to enter Allied Health programs such as nursing, respiratory therapy and EMT/paramedic.

The construction of new buildings would then free up space in some of the older buildings for math courses, agriculture courses and a space for a permanent veterans resource center.

“We care deeply about our veterans,” Yaqub said. “We have an increasing number of veterans that are coming back into school and one of the services that we learn early on that supports them is a place that they can go to hang out and be with other veterans and receive tutoring and support.”

In addition to a number of new buildings, other projects listed in full text of the measure include improving water conservation, replacing outdated electrical wiring, removing asbestos, repairing leaky roofs and replacing deteriorating gas, electrical and sewer lines.

The measure also lists goals such as better preparing returning veterans for high-paying jobs, expanding essential job training and workforce preparation and preparing students for careers in growing fields like nursing and career pathways in high-paying fields like welding and law enforcement.

Impact on taxpayers

The highest tax rate required to fund the bond is estimated to be $0.025 per $100 or $25 per $100,000 of assessed valuation of property. Assessed value is different from market value, which is how much a home with worth on the current market and can vary from assessed value. Taxpayers eligible for a property tax exemption will be taxed at a lower effective rate, according to the bond tax rate statement.

The college will likely issue bonds in several series as the projects will take several years, which keeps the cost of interest down, Yaqub said.

If approved, the bond includes accountability provisions such as financial audits and a citizens’ oversight committee, which must include representatives from a taxpayers’ group, a senior citizen’s group and a member of the business community, among others. The committee is advisory in nature, however, and ultimately the board will decide how funding is used.

The bond funding can only be used for the purposes described in the ballot measure and not for faculty or administrators’ salaries or other college operating expenses.

No argument against the measure was submitted to the County Clerk Recorder. The Butte County Democratic Party and the Butte County Republican Party have endorsed the measure as well as the Chico Chamber of Commerce.

Reach reporter Dani Anguiano at 896-7767.