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SBCC Leaders Eye Facilities Improvement Bond for 2014

Trustees tour the campus to better understand the need for capital spending

Santa Barbara City College President Lori Gaskin explains some of the college’s many facilities needs during a tour of the campus with members of the Board of Trustees.
Santa Barbara City College President Lori Gaskin explains some of the college’s many facilities needs during a tour of the campus with members of the Board of Trustees.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

Santa Barbara City College President Lori Gaskin wants to push for a Proposition 39 capital improvements bond in 2014, and the college’s Board of Trustees will decide whether to support the idea at a March meeting.

Prop. 39 bond revenues finance facility improvements and technology upgrades, and require only 55 percent approval by voters to pass, down from the two-thirds supermajority for parcel taxes.

Money comes from taxes levied on property owners within the college district, with a dollar amount taxed for every $100,000 of assessed property value.

SBCC is still working on construction projects funded by Measure V, the 2008 voter-approved bond that raised $77.24 million for capital improvements.

The Humanities Building renovation is about 40 percent complete. and involves replacing plumbing, electrical and informational technology infrastructure in all the walls, with a total cost of about $18 million to date.

The Board of Trustees took a tour of East Campus facilities at a study session this week, and heard about the potential timeline for getting a ballot measure ready by next June or November.

If the board decides to move forward, consultants said, it should test public support with surveys and then do more research into the actual bond amounts and tax levels.

Bond consultant David Casnocha said an inventory of important facility capital needs is the first step, and SBCC staff will present those to the trustees in March.

SBCC needs to know what the needs are and how much estimated costs are for the improvements, Casnocha said.

Prop. 39 bond objectives should focus on student safety, technology upgrades and improving class sizes or offerings, he added.

A dingy, below-ground room at SBCC is just one of the many facilities that would be renovated if district officials pursue improvement bonds in 2014. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)
A dingy, below-ground room at SBCC is just one of the many facilities that would be renovated if district officials pursue improvement bonds in 2014. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

“I haven’t seen anything this outdated in 12 years,” bond campaign consultant Catherine Lew told the trustees.

Lew’s firm, Lew Edwards Group, has worked with dozens of community college districts for bond campaigns. Even last year, the overwhelming majority of education bonds on the ballot were passed by California voters, including eight of nine for community college districts, she said.

Trustees were generally receptive to the idea of going out for a bond, but insisted that the process be meticulously researched.

SBCC “asked not enough last time and promised too much,” trustee Marianne Kugler said.

The college district promised too many specifics last time, which won’t happen again, Gaskin agreed.

If the board gives Gaskin the OK to pursue the campaign, she will recommend starting polling, then investigating the amount needed and possible election date.

The Santa Barbara Unified School District also is considering a 2014 Prop. 39 bond, Casnocha said.

“Frankly, I want to be first out,” Gaskin said. “I don’t want to follow any other entity; we’re too important, we serve too many students and we have too many needs.”

Along the tour of the East Campus, the board stopped in on some of the campus’ oldest buildings, which are plagued by HVAC issues, leaking roofs and crowded layouts.

“When I came here, I was shocked at the condition,” Gaskin told trustee Peter Haslund during the tour. “I thought West Valley College was run down.”

The MacDougall Administration Center, where all trustee meetings are held, is the oldest building on campus.

Julie Hendricks, director of facilities and campus development, led the tour into the “Willy Wonka room” below ground level, which showed just how old some of the building’s inner workings were. There’s an asbestos-filled piece of 60-year-old equipment down there that’s so large, it can’t fit through any doors, so there it remains.

The many departments in the Student Services building, formerly a library, have outgrown their home, said Ben Partee, dean of educational programs. It’s the heart of the institution, Gaskin said, but the haphazard and crowded spaces make it difficult for students to navigate.

On the first floor alone, the building houses admissions, the cashier, health services, an information kiosk, general information desk, and transfer center. SBCC needs to completely gut the building and reorganize, Gaskin said.

The building housing Food Services leaks when it rains — to the point of having to throw out food — and has so little space that programs have to get rid of equipment for every new piece, director Mark Sullivan said.

“It’s just one thing after another for this building,” Hendricks said.

Non-instructional functions such as food services and student services aren’t state-supported, so any improvements have to be locally funded, Gaskin noted.

Also in the Campus Center building is the office of The Channels, the campus student news organization, and adviser Patricia Stark said every time it rains, one of the student journalists has to completely relocate.

Similar to local K-12 districts, the campus hosts many modular portable classrooms — some of which have already been recycled from another campus. They have rotting, uneven floors, constantly get complaints about the cold and heat, and are generally a negative environment for students and teachers, Hendricks said.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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» on 02.23.13 @ 03:58 AM

Didn’t the voters approve bond issues already? Stop sucking us dry.

» on 02.23.13 @ 04:09 AM

Last time I mistakenly voted for these Prop 39 bonds. If the bond consultants and SBCC administrators are reading this, I intend to vigorously oppose these bonds with a very public campaign. The same warning also applies to the SBUSD.

BTW, this Bloomberg article from August 2009 discusses some of the bond deals for which the consultant, David Casnocha, provided the legal opinion. Note the fees paid to the consultants and the bond advisory firms.

» on 02.23.13 @ 09:11 AM

Homeowners just imposed a bunch of new school district taxes on ourselves in 2012 and we’re still pay off the 2008 community college bonds.  (Look at your tax bills, people!)  Let’s also not forget that we’re paying higher sales taxes for the next 4 years.  Can we just take a breather for a while?

» on 02.23.13 @ 02:12 PM

Why do the bureaucrats always think that the answer is to mortgage our future with bonds and/or taxes?

To quote, “Money comes from taxes levied on property owners within the college district, with a dollar amount taxed for every $100,000 of assessed property value.”

As pointed out, we already are heavily taxed to support education. SBCC should manage the funds they already get not demand more.

SBCC is supposed to be a “community college.” So why does SBCC recruit students from around the state, around the country AND around the world!? Maybe if they stayed within their basic mission they could afford to operate on the funds they already have.

» on 02.23.13 @ 04:34 PM

they have got to be kidding. I have voted for all their previous bonds….and honestly, they will have their hands full just keeping their promises on those.  Also, SBCC may want to examine the increasing impacts of their campus/policies on surrounding neighborhoods and the South coast as a whole.  The influx of out of state out of country students seeking housing, moving to IV, overburdening MTD, etc etc- is not lost on most of us…..SBCC either needs to mitigate the impacts, look at its admissions policies, or something

» on 02.23.13 @ 04:37 PM

SBCC and its administrators and “bond consultants” are in a dream world where every problem has an answer - soak the taxpayer!  It’s not as if SBCC is a paragon of education or administration - witness the recent nonsense with hiring and retaining a president.  We’re still paying for the last bond issue.  I live 25 miles away and have nothing whatsoever to do with SBCC and never will - yet I pay year after year while witnessing the nonsense. 

The amount of money squandered by community colleges in California is mind-numbing.  Let’s see accountability and good stewardship of the funds they do have before we write them another blank check in the form of a bond that doesn’t specify how it will be used!

» on 02.23.13 @ 08:14 PM

We need to pay off the other 15 bonds first, the private sector worker is tapped out.

Government needs a big hair cut like the rest of us in the real world.

Start Cutting Wages,Staffing, perks, pensions & number of paid days off. Who works for who today..?? Servant or self serving??

No more new taxes and for the low information voter (Democrats) a BOND is a tax..Yes its a tax..lesson over!!!

» on 02.24.13 @ 07:20 PM

What’s wrong with this picture?

The trustees, who run for office telling us they already knew what City College
needs, are getting paid to tour their own campus to find out?

The money voters approved to rebuild the College a little while ago? Where has
that gone, and why does SBCC need more money so soon after?

Too bad your reporter didn’t think to ask, or get answers, for those questions.

» on 08.11.13 @ 10:47 AM

Trustee Kugler and SBCC President Gaskin err in their repeated comments about the past 2008 SBCC bond issue “promising too much and asking for too little”.  The state repeatedly promised matching funds for many of the SBCC bond issue projects, which were retracted after the 2008 financial meltdown.

A great deal of voter enthusiasm for that bond issue was a result of the matching funds promises, repeatedly confirmed by the state at that time.  I regret seeing two people who were not present at that time attack the integrity of the prior SBCC decision-making process.

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