By Andrew Shortall
1:15 PM PST, November 14, 2012
Only one of three school bond measures on this year's ballot that would raise property taxes for Huntington Beach residents is set to pass, with the Coast Community College District's Measure M holding 56.4% of the vote as of Tuesday afternoon.
The other two measures — N and P from the Fountain Valley and Ocean View districts, respectively — fall below the required 55% mark needed to approve bonds. Measure P has 53.3% of the vote and N holds 50.3%.
Results for measures M, N and P look much different than most district bond measures in Orange County.
Huntington Beach City Councilman Matthew Harper credited the local "no on new taxes" campaign for the close calls.
"You look at the way this election went across the state of California, and you see other [measures] that passed with a significant margin," Harper said. "These may be the only ones that just passed or came close to failure."
The Coast Community College District's $698-million bond will build classrooms and laboratories, improve access to buildings for people with disabilities, install and repair safety and security equipment, fix leaking roofs and decaying walls and improve educational resources for active military and veterans at the district's three colleges: Golden West, Orange Coast and Coastline.
"I know everyone right now is looking at sources of revenue," Coast Community College Board of Trustees President Jim Moreno said. "The measure we're looking at invests in the future."
Moreno said the money would also help the district prepare for a wave of incoming students, with the California State University and University of California systems expected to increase tuition prices again in coming years.
"The CSUs' and UCs' prices are going up, and we're going to find more students coming to us," he said.
Harper opposes any increased property taxes and was against all three measures, particularly Measure M, because residents are still paying off the district's $370-million bond from 2002.
"I am surprised that Measure M is still hanging on, but I am not surprised that it's close," Harper said. "What they're asking for, when it's totaled up with their previous bond just about 10 years ago, is a billion dollars in borrowing."
Ocean View's Measure P also looks to modernize and update aging infrastructure, with most of the district's school sites being built in the 1960s, according to a district release.
Board of Trustees President Tracy Pellman said she's holding out hope for a last-minute comeback.
"From what I heard this morning, there's 3 to 4,000 more votes that are going to be counted," she said. "We'd have to get something like 70% of those votes, and that's a pretty high number. … My fingers are crossed, but I think that would almost be a miracle if that happened."
Like every school district in California, Ocean View has been hit with hefty state budget cuts — totaling $30 million over recent years, according to the release.
The proposed $198-million bond would increase taxes for property owners in the district by no more than $30 a year per $100,000 on assessed property value.
Measure P funds would fix leaky roofs, heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electricity, and update buildings not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other government standards.
"The schools are in such dire straits financially, I don't know what the next step is at this point if it doesn't pass," Pellman said. "The board will have to make that decision."
Fountain Valley's Measure N, which Supt. Marc Ecker said is the first in district history, asked residents to increase their property taxes $15 a year per $100,000 over the next 25 years for its proposed $23.5-million bond to replace outdated technology, upgrade computers and fill other shortcomings.
Ecker thinks Measure N was unsuccessful because of a shortened campaign that was unable to rally its local City Council, Planning Commission and Chamber of Commerce for support.
"Those of us who worked so hard on this campaign are very, very disappointed," Ecker said. "We are just sort of looking at ways that we might be able to do things a little bit differently if there is a next time, and we hope there will be, and be more successful."