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Coronado Unified backs new school bond structure

Voters recently decided the fates of school bonds for multimillion-dollar facilities in the Sweetwater Union High School and San Diego Community College districts, but the Coronado Unified School District is proposing a $29 million bond measure to help bridge its $2.5 million annual general fund deficit.

The money is needed for classroom equipment; new roofs, plumbing and electrical systems; fire and emergency communication systems; heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting improvements; and lease-purchase refinancing obligations.

Jeffrey Felix, superintendent of the Coronado Unified School District, said this bond measure, Proposition E, was the district’s last option, now that the state allocates public school funding on a weighted model based on English as a second language courses and the number of children from low-income households or foster care.

School districts used to get money for their general fund based solely on student attendance.

“We are in the 5 to 8 percent bracket of schools in California that cannot get additional funding because of the new rules,” said Felix, who spoke during his lunch break because he cannot campaign for the bond measure on district time.

“We’ve gone the last six years with no funding increases,” Felix said. “We have cut expenses, have had teachers and staff take furloughs for three straight years and have had no additional hiring during this span.”

The bond would be paid off in 10 years by an extra $39.87 per year for every $100,000 of assessed property value for Coronado residents.

The median assessed value in Coronado is $700,000.

But what makes Proposition E different is that would raise revenue for the district's fixed expenses and free up money for teachers and programs, to avoid cuts.

“The bond will do two things,” Felix said. “First, it will relieve Fund 40 [special reserves for capital outlay] and the general fund of their expenses for facilities, repairs, maintenance and new technology equipment. Second, by doing so, it will free up funds from Fund 40 to be used to cover expenses in the general fund, thus closing the gap in the budget.”

The Coronado Unified School District uses general fund and Fund 40 revenue to pay for teachers, programs, services, facility repairs, equipment and debt services.

No funds would be used for administrator salaries, benefits or pensions.

Felix said the school board found enough support among residents and businesses to place Proposition E on the June 3 ballot. The bond measure needs 55 percent approval to pass.

There are more than 1,000 signatures endorsing the measure, including Coronado Mayor Casey Tanaka, on the Yes on E website.

The San Diego Taxpayers Association isn’t taking a stand on the measure.

“Because it is a new model and something we haven’t really seen before, our board thought it would be best to stay neutral on Proposition E,” said Sean Karafin, interim president and CEO of the San Diego Taxpayers Association. “We hope it works, but we just want to wait and see if it will be good model for taxpayers.”

The Associated General Contractors San Diego chapter opposes Proposition E because the bond is more about bridging the school district’s budget shortfall and less about building classrooms.

“Basically, a good portion of it is going to be used for their day-to-day operations,” said Jim Ryan, CEO of San Diego’s AGC chapter. “We don’t feel a bond measure should be used like this. They were not intended to be used this way.”

Ryan added that that the chapter would support the bond if the money were going for new facilities and not just equipment replacement.

“No building trade organization will support a bond measure like Proposition E,” Ryan said.

Felix said no new schools or facilities are needed, so a larger bond measure wasn’t proposed.

The $29 million figure comes from an estimate needed over the next 10 years to close the annual $2.5 million budget deficit, with interest.

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Coronado Unified School District

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Coronado, CA 92118