Tuesday, May 24 , 2016, 10:50 am | Partly Cloudy 62º

SBCC Leaders Eye Facilities Improvement Bond for 2014

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

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“I haven’t seen anything this outdated in 12 years,” bond campaign consultant Catherine Lew told the trustees.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