Prop. R failed, so what is next?

Donna Braye-Romero, president of the Ramona Teachers Association, submitted this on behalf of Ramona’s teachers.

In the wake of November’s election, public schools and the communities they serve came out winners. That is true, to some extent, in Ramona.   Fortunately, the passage of Proposition 30 restores stable funding to schools for the next seven years. However, Proposition R, the local school bond, did not pass. Of the 15,279 votes cast, the required 55% fell short by a mere 671 “Yes” votes.

Failure to pass a school bond is generally not positive, but here in Ramona, the failure of Prop. R is devastating and brings with it serious consequences.

In the last election, 80% of the 108 school bonds proposed in California met the 55% requirement, and many exceeded 60% and 70% voter approval.  Some districts have even passed two or three bonds over the last 10 to 15 years.

Bonds are a necessary part of every school district’s finances. As schools grow older, they must be upgraded and/or rebuilt. The state will provide some matching funds, but only when the community passes a bond. Good, safe schools are essential for a thriving community. Take a look at public schools in San Diego County. What we offer our children pales in comparison.

If you do not know, a previous RUSD administration and school board took out a large loan in 2004 after voters rejected a bond. With this money, they built two beautiful new schools and improved existing facilities before years of declining enrollment. This is putting the cart before the horse. Approximately $25 million was borrowed, but with interest it amounts to $55 million. This was borrowed and spent without community support and without first securing funds to repay the loan.

Developer fees, a product of the building boom, have been used to make initial payments on the loan but will no longer exist as of 2014. Starting in 2014 the district’s general fund will be the only source available to make these loan payments.  Money allocated to your children’s education will be redirected to pay off the loan. The first year payment of $702,000 quickly jumps to over $1 million the following year, and eventually exceeds $3 million a year. By the time the loan is paid off in 2032 $44 million will have been taken from your children and their children’s education.

Don’t worry, the district administration and school board have a plan! They would force school employees to pay for the loan in the form of excessive pay cuts. This is neither economically feasible nor fair. Don’t be fooled by the school board and superintendent. If employees were forced to pay off this loan, they would suffer greatly.

The ultimate losers would be our children and community. Highly qualified educators will not want to teach or work in Ramona. Based on the academic scores in Ramona, there are quite a few highly qualified teachers. Teaching salaries are already lower in Ramona compared to the rest of San Diego County. Eighteen years of very large cuts, while other district’s teachers are getting salary increases, will lead to a mass exodus of quality educators. Over the years, the workforce that made our schools award winning (Distinguished Schools, School To Watch, Blue Ribbon, etc.) and respected in the greater San Diego community, will disappear.  RUSD will become a district to avoid for teachers seeking employment and for potential families moving to the community.  Ramona will no longer be a place parents want to bring heir children. This guarantees the death of a community.

In order to pass a school bond, we must be upfront with the Ramona electorate. Though we desperately need upgraded facilities and updated technology, a new bond should only raise enough money to pay off the loan during these difficult economic times. This will greatly reduce the size of the bond, making it much more palatable to voters. As a result the bond would stop draining needed dollars from the children’s education.

The community suggestion to have contractors help with some district facility improvements, which would have been addressed under Prop. R, would be helpful. However, contractors can’t repay the loan. Only a bond can tackle the repayment of the loan starting in 2014.

Teachers recognize times are tough and we are willing to contribute by taking a reasonable pay cut. But the district’s position is totally out of line with what is comparable in other districts in the county. We want what is best for our students.

At the last school board meeting and again during mediation, the school board stated that they may no longer be interested in passing a bond. But hopefully that perspective will change after the effects of losing Prop. R fade and reality sets in.

The school board has a fiduciary responsibility to protect the district it is entrusted to serve. Instead of trying to make employees pay for the loan, school board members should be advocating for their employees. The school board and administration need to work collaboratively with teachers if a bond is to be passed. We hope that is a lesson that has been learned. The decision to have employees shoulder the burden of the loan shows a lack of respect for the people who work for the children of Ramona.

Ramona’s teachers share a positive relationship with, you, our community. Together, we can overcome this fiscal crisis. We can pass a bond in Ramona.

Newly elected member John Rajcic Sr. will take his seat on the board soon and will hopefully bring a fresh perspective to the board, to move us forward and save our school district.  Mr. Rajcic and the board can work with district employees to collaborate and compromise and make our school district the best ever. If we can, Ramona’s children, and the Ramona community, will be the winners.

Related posts:

  1. Prop. R fails — now what?
  2. Prop. R is not sound fiscal management
  3. School bond will be Proposition R on Nov. 6 ballot
  4. Letter to the editor: Ramona schools need Prop. R
  5. Hold your nose & vote

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Posted by Karen Brainard on Dec 14 2012. Filed under Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

10 Comments for “Prop. R failed, so what is next?”

  1. Jim

    We need to support our schools and our children! It is hard to believe that the community of Ramona was unable to pass this bond. Even if you don't care about education, you should realized what a good school district does for property values.

    • i support our schools and our children, but i voted against the bond, and no one should be too surprised that it didn't pass. i don't believe it will have any direct impact on my property value, and even if it did, i'd just as soon have my value low. i guess if someone was planning to leave the area, they might be better off if their value somehow went up so they could cash out, leaving the new owner to pay increased taxes for the next 25 years (or forever, whichever comes first). in this economy, lower values might attract more families here, increasing enrollment and bringing more funding to the schools.

    • Pundit

      Really? I've lived here for 60 years. Never once has any of the new schools or upgrades done one thing to increase my property values. Not the new high school when it was built, not OPMS, not Hanson Elementary, not Ramona Community School at Hanson & Ramona. I live in close proximity to all of them. In fact, property values went down AFTER they were built and have owned property here for over 40 years. Nothing against the education of our kids. I'm an RHS graduate myself. But I'm not into throwing away good money after bad only to see nothing get done or change. There needs to be a shake up from top to bottom, administrators right on down to some of the custodians. There are plenty of good people working there, but there are also a lot of sluggards just collecting a paycheck and not doing their jobs.

  2. Barney

    Donna, you've been insisting the district is hiding money for years. If that's true why would the taxpayers agree to a tax increase over 25 years? Nobody deserves a pay cut but here we are. The voters said no. Time for compromise and leadership.

  3. Approximately $1 a day, per person, for a population of 30,000 people in Ramona, for 5.5 years sounds like a good investment to me , for our School District and our children, and will keep the State of California from taking over. . (66 million dollars that was proposed for the Bond … not just to repair roofs , keep buildings from collapsing from termites, and pay off the debt for the new elementary schools but to get new books for the students… which they have not had in years… and to get computers/IT out of the dark ages… and yes to keep our good teachers, and hire some of our younger Ramona HS alumni who now have teaching credentials. . )
    Or if that's too much per day, how about 50 cents a day per person for 12 years, or 25 cents a day per person for 24 years? ,
    Jane Tanaka MD

    • $1 a day per person is $150 per month for a family of 5. we just rejected $15 per month, so how would ten times that ever fly? if there were no other option, it might be a good investment, but that's not the case. when i have less income, i spend less — how about the district trying that for a while? the teachers union won't let us hire any of those young ramona teachers at $30k per year because they're protecting the senior ones at $90k per year. lower that $90k to $60k and if a few leave, maybe we can backfill them with some young talent. cut 50% from the administration and we might have some money for books, too.

      tell me again what is wrong with the state taking over? oh yeah, they might make changes like the ones i've suggested.

  4. Thank you, Big Bird. You are right . $150 a month would be a lot for a family of 5 whose budget is already tight. Or say, there are 20,000 tax paying HOUSEHOLDS in Ramona, that would be 1.50 a month PER HOUSEHOLD for 5.5 years or 37.5 cents per day for 24-25 years.
    Yes, Dr Graeff et al are counting on the teacher's union to cave in to pressure and accept a cut in pay.; and some of the best teachers would retire or leave instead. New young teachers would cost less… but they still need the experienced ones to mentor them.

    • there are only 10,000 households in ramona and the country estates, not 20,000, but let's say they all contributed $3 per month, or $36 per year. that's enough to pay dr graeff's salary with enough left over to provide coffee service for the staff. i think dr graeff et al are asking the teachers union to accept the reality that the district's income barely meets the payroll expenditures.

      also, who can tell which teachers are the best? the ones that have been here the longest? according to the union, all teachers are the same and there is no merit system. i would consider the ones who accept a cut and stay to be the best.

  5. Part 2:
    I have dealt with many of the school districts in this County, and the teachers in Ramona are by far the most dedicated .Our Ramona teachers truly bend over backwards for our kids, especially the ones that are falling behind or have special needs. Its hard to put a dollar value on that, . but it saves the District a lot of money that would have to be spent on funding a Nonpublic School placement costing over a $100K per student per year!

    Insolvency would lead to the State of Californnia LENDING our school district this money that we, the people, dont give our district….. and the State will still want it back!

  6. Part 3:
    Yes, the school district idealily should live within its harvest… like the rest of us..
    The school administrators have their tails between their legs, and they've taken a 10%or more cut in benefits..they dont want to lose their jobs, so they may take more of a cut. The school board years ago did not have crystal ball and made some serious mistakes.. They do admit that. They've tried to sell 3 peices of property, but fairy shrimp, zoning, and nill demand prevents this… and no the State will not buy back the property. The administration and school board members all do need to listen to the people of Ramona. They are more likely to do so than a school czar from the State. .
    Yes, the czar is likely to make the changes you suggest….. and MORE ( for example ,closing Montecito HS, Ramona Community School, Ramona Elementary, shutting down the libraries, athletic, music/drama programs,, the school buses,, tear down buildings and not replace them, etc)

    Jane Tanaka MD

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