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State should share burden of building new schools

Orange County is thriving, and its economy is among the strongest in the nation. While the future looks promising, there are some dark clouds on the horizon that threaten continued success.

One issue that may threaten our success is how future school facility projects are funded. Currently, the state partners with local school districts to invest in modernizing existing schools and building new facilities where needed. Without the state’s critical investment, in the form of matching dollars, there could be devastating consequences for homeowners, taxpayers and job-creation efforts.

Ensuring our children receive a good education is key to their success, as well as critical for our future economy. Since 1998, the state of California, through voter-approved bonds, has provided local school districts with matching funds to help modernize and build new schools to meet educational needs. For the past 17 years, not only has the School Facility Program built or upgraded schools for millions of children, it has also implemented accountability measures that allow the state to audit school districts to verify that funds are spent appropriately.

California has not placed a school bond before voters since 2006. For the first time in 10 years, voters of this state will have to decide whether to infuse funding to help protect one of the state’s most successful investment partnerships between public entities and private business.

Without state bonds, local school districts will be forced to turn to regressive tax increases that will disproportionately hit the poor, middle class and small businesses through increased local property taxes, increased parcel taxes and building fees on new construction. Furthermore, without state investment, the new homebuilding industry estimates that, should the current model of financing capitol improvements for our schools end, school impact fees could increase by $15,000 or more per unit over what is currently paid. The median price of Orange County homes is $630,000 and will only get worse should the new homebuyers have to bear the state’s portion of school facility funding.

To safeguard against this threat, educators and business leaders have qualified a $9 billion school bond for the November ballot. The voters should not be alarmed and should consider protecting the existing financing program that ensures that our children have good schools, protects new homebuyers from escalating costs and safeguards our economy. It is especially important that we are cognizant of the significant economic impact that this bond would have in job creation efforts, with the Center for Strategic Economic Research showing that more than 15,000 jobs are created for every $1.2 billion in annual new construction and modernization investments.

While there may be some who believe local taxpayers should bear the full cost of modernizing and building new schools, I believe the state has an obligation to support students, local communities and preserve jobs in our fragile economy. If you believe in the latter, then please join me in supporting Californians for Quality Schools and the passage of this state school bond on the November ballot.

Janet Nguyen, R-Garden Grove, represents the 34th state Senate District.

This article appears as it was published in The Orange County Register April 7, 2016. 


Posted on April 15, 2016

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