Ramona trustees may try again for a school bond

By Maureen Robertson

Superintendent Robert Graeff asked for direction from Ramona school trustees, and he received it. They want recommendations for a potential general obligation bond on the November 2014 ballot.

Voters in November 2012 denied the district’s bid for a $66 million bond. The proposal received 50.6 percent voter support but needed 55 percent.

“If the board takes this action tonight, it does not commit you to anything,” Graeff said at the trustees’ meeting

Superintendent Robert Graeff, left, and Trustee Kim Lasley listen as Trustee John Rajcic reads a statement at a recent school board meeting. Sentinel file photo

Sept. 19, “It gives us direction to come back with a bond conversation.”

In his report to the board, Graeff reviewed conversation at the community workshop on Aug. 17, reasons for fiscal challenges the district faces, steps the district and employees have taken, ideas to improve the budget, and possible next steps.

At the top of the trustees’ list of priorities for 2013-14 is to “improve district’s short-term and long-term fiscal health.”

“Factors that continue to plaque the district are 12 consecutive years of declining enrollment, rising health care costs and declining state revenue,” Graeff said in his report. “To improve local finances, the governing board has recently negotiated new compensation agreements with all employee groups and reduced millions of dollars in annual operating costs. The board has also authorized a study of our current facilities and real property with the expectation of receiving a detailed report and recommendations later this fall.”

Other districts have faced declining enrollment, increased health costs and state cuts, said Graeff, but what’s unique to Ramona is the $25 million loan in the form of a certificate of participation (COP) a previous board indebted the district to in 2004. The district refinanced the loan in 2007 and until this year payments came from bond funds and developer fees, said Graeff.

“This is the year, the year right now, where we actually begin to hit the general fund for payments toward the COP,” he said.

The payment this year is $75,000, next year’s is $1.7 million, and payments for the next 20 years increase about $100,000 each year, he said.

If the district paid off the COP today, the payment would be about $35 million. After reviewing all cost-cutting and fundraising options, Graeff said, “There is no action you’re going to take related to that plan that is going to solve the long-term indebtedness of this district.”

Responding to Trustee John Rajcic’s question, “When the rubber hits the road, what would you recommend,” Graeff said, “A large reason why we are having severe financial issues in Ramona is because of that COP. Bob Graeff would like to have the doggone thing paid off. And the only way to do that is to pass a school bond.”

“I’d like to work on another bond on next year’s election,” said Trustee Kim Lasley, recommending that, “if we did (another bond bid), we’d have to keep it simple, real simple.”

Agreeing that last year’s bond bid was district-driven, the consensus was that, if the district were to attempt another bond, it must have community buy-in. Trustees Dawn Perfect and Rodger Dohm noted that survey results from before the bond bid and the actual vote were almost the same.

“The last time around, we didn’t change any votes,” said Perfect. “The bond survey that was done was exactly accurate. No votes changed with all the campaigning and all the door knocking.”

“If the survey tells us the community’s not on board, we should not do it. We should wait,” said Dohm.

“To me it’s rather simple,” Rajcic said.

Legions of yes voters aren’t registered to vote, he said.

“You register (them) and you make sure that they’re going to get an absentee ballot,” he said, and when the absentee ballots arrive, “you knock on the door, they give it to you, you mail it.”

Bond recommendations for board and public discussion are expected to include possible amount, project list, bond consultant, community survey timeline, community leadership and legal timelines.

Related posts:

  1. School bond will be Proposition R on Nov. 6 ballot
  2. Trustees poised to place $60M bond on November ballot
  3. Survey shows support for a school bond
  4. School board president calls for town meeting
  5. Ramona trustees approve shorter school year

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Posted by Maureen Robertson on Sep 25 2013. Filed under Featured Story, News, Ramona, Schools. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

24 Comments for “Ramona trustees may try again for a school bond”

  1. Jane Tanaka MD

    There are folks who were adamantly opposed to Prop R, who have turned around since then. Its more likely to pass if the amount is limited to paying off the COP. On the other hand… if half the roofs are leaky…

  2. Ramona Resident

    Time to vote the fools out! All they want to do is tax us to cover their incompetence. I say we vote out anybody who tries to put yet another nod issue befor the voters. Don't they think we pay enough taxes already? Their arrogance is astonishing and frustrating!

    • Local

      I agree. NO NO NO on this Bond. It cannot pass. I'm sick and tired of hearing crying and complaining about money from the school district. They need to shut up and live off the money they have.

    • Big Daddy

      Question for you and "Local". Every other district in the county, and many other districts throughout the state have passed school bonds in the past ten years to upgrade facilities. Ramona is one of the few, and the only one in the county that hasn't. These districts have used the money to maintain and upgrade facilities since the state does not provide enough revenue to do so. Thats why you see nice facilities in districts like Poway. If it weren't for Ramona's COP (e.g. "The Loan"), would you be incllined to support a school bond here? Are there other isses? Or are you against school bonds in general? Currently, I'm neutral and interested in understanding the opinions of others in my community.

      • Guest

        If it were not for the COP, I do believe a bond measure would of passed by now. Although I certainly don't speak for all of Ramona, most people I have talk to believe what the previous board did with regards to COP is akin to criminal negligence and to date, no member(s) of the previous board has been held accountable. Until that is done, no bond measure is going to go through.

        • Big Daddy

          "Criminal" is a pretty strong word. Can you and the "most people" you've talked to take action on this criminal behavior? Have you talked to law enforcement? prosecuters? How to you propose that the former members of the board and administration be held accountable? I'm just trying to understand where you are coming from, because if it was just a bad decision, and not criminal, there is a difference. If there is no legal way to make them "pay" for what they did, and the school district will go bankrupt without a bond and hurt your property values (and your kid's education if you have any), would you want the district to go down in flames because a few people aren't going to go to prison?

      • Ramona Resident

        From my perspective, it is the complete unwillingness of this Board and this administration to look into alternatives to raising money through a bond. At the point were they have made some real and significant reductions in other areas, I would then consider a bond. Until then, it is nothing more than the same old with this bunch. I keep saying it – the corporate world, when faced with these kind of difficulties, makes the difficult decisions to fix the situation; government agencies, including school districts, tend to just extort more money from the taxpayer through taxes and bonds.

        • Property Owner

          I agree that I as a property owner don't want anyone thinking I'm an ATM machine. But what if they did look into alternatives and act upon them? What if they sold off all their surplus property and generated half a million dollars? They would still need a bond to pay off the rest of the loan. But If they took real steps to offset some of the debt with the sale and restructuring of assets, would you be inclined to support a bond. Especially if the alternative was to let the district go bankrupt or see another round of horrendous cuts?

          • Ramona Resident

            If they did all that you suggest, then I would be 100% supportive of a bond to fix the mess. Like I answered to M. Workman below, enrollment is down 21% since 2003, and yet, I see no indication that the district has cut expenses to match the decreased enrollment. We have 6 primary schools (if you include RCS). A 21% decrease suggests that one site could be shut down and we would have a decrease in all the administrative overhead expenses. Plus, I am convinced that we have too many administrative personnel in the school sites and at the district. Have those decreased 21% to match the enrollment decline? When they start making serious reductions, I'm on board with a bond.

  3. Guest

    Instead of trying to increase property taxes, which most Ramona residents cannot afford to have done to them, let the next bond measure get its money from increased taxes on cigarettes, beer ,& winery sales. Not sure if its possible, but I'd also implement a local tax on soda sales. Call it a sin tax if you want, but at least it would do some good for the local community.

  4. solar1

    Once again. No. When will people learn? Why should I keep paying for other people's mistakes.

  5. M.Workman

    How about we pay attention to who we vote for in the first place? But we need to see the forest through the trees people. The COP is a mistake, yes. Ok, lets deal with it. But bogus cries of incompetence, paying for other people's mistakes, sin taxes. Understand the big picture. COP aside, the state $ along with current local $ is not enough to keep this district in fair shape. This is beyond dispute.

  6. M.Workman

    We're paying to increase our community value, our children's educational experience, and your flipping property values. We're not going to turn the "no growth" people. Nor will we turn those who's children went to school on the taxes my parents paid…However, if you have kids in this school district, you do your homework, you'll find this district isn't mis-managed. With the exception of "the loan." It is amazing to me how much this district seems to do with what they have. We don't have many options. We don't promote new business or growth. I'm not sure what irks me more, folks with kids who are willing to let them settle for less at school to prove some point, or those who have no children in school and seem to say "We got ours, now you get yours."

    • Ramona Resident

      It isn't a matter of "We got ours"; it is a matter of incompetence. I completely disagree with your premise of the district not being mis-managed. We have a lower ADC – how about we sell of some old facilities with leaking roofs? Then, we won't have to pay for maintenance, plus we get some $ into the coffers. Will this take care of everything? No, but it is a step in the right direction. How about we reduce admin staff and do we really need so many vice-principals and superintendents? No. Instead of making inconvenient decisions they want us to bail them out so they can continue their cush jobs. The real world doesn't work this way!

      • M.Workman

        The real world is what they are dealing with. Do you have a kid in school right now? Tell us which admin job? From experience. I agree about selling surplus property if it's profitable to do so. Your premise that this district has unnecessary positions is unsupported by fact and comparison. Short of "the loan" please give examples of incompetence. I understand you don't want to pay, like I said, you can't be turned. I accept that.

        • Ramona Resident

          The real world is a world where you cannot simply tax your way out of a problem. In the real world, a company, when faced with declining revenues, does what it must – cut expenses. Examples of unnecessary positions – how about MULTIPLE assistant superintendents, MULTIPLE assistant principals, a bloated counseling staff. What about Ramona Community School? A nice to have in times of surplus but nothing short of a luxury when you have RE falling apart. And, yes, I have kids in the schools. In fact, I was educated in Ramona, as were my parents, so I think I have an excellent comparative base for my perspectives. Plus, I work as an executive in the real world where I have made difficult decisions in difficult financial times, so when I say it can be done, I'm speaking from real world experience.

          • M.Workman

            The fact is the district has cut expenses. But clearly not as you see fit. Again, "bloated counseling staff?" Opinion, not supported by fact or comparison. Congrats on your real world experience. I have made the same tough cuts in private industry and again in the public sector. I get it. You can check me out since I use my real name. As for your family history in the Ramona education system, and your keen business accumen, you should be able to see what has changed locally within the past 20 years. I do agree further cuts can be made. But it cannot be claimed this district is mis-managed. Maybe not managed the way you or I like it on any given day. I am the last one to support higher taxes for almost anything, but I do for the education of our children.

          • Ramona Resident

            We can go back and forth on this all day, but the reality of it is when a business is faced with decreased revenue, they make the difficult cuts. The Sentinel published an article just yesterday that shows a decrease in enrollment from 7,247 in 2003 to just 5,725 this year. That's a 21% decrease. Has the district cut expenses 21% to meet the decreased revenue? We have 6 primary schools in the district. The enrollment numbers suggest we have 1 more than we need. That is not opinion. That is fact. Make the cuts then we'll talk about bonds.

  7. Dismayed Parent

    When I walk into classrooms on Back to School Night and see cabinet doors hanging by a single screw, a stack of broken chairs in the corner, lockers that are just missing hardware, peeling paint. Simple maintenance issues that are not difficult , expensive or time consuming to fix I have to wonder why these things are being neglected. And i could not agree more about closing a school. Too much chatter and too little leadership. I don't see any real effort being but forth by the district other than cutting the salaries of those at the low end of the scale while admin protects itself. Do all you can with what you have before you come to my door begging again

    • Guest

      The reason why the simple things aren't addressed is because there is no money in it for the district. They already have maintenance staff to fix these problems. A little hardware costs very little and would probably be donated by a local hardware store. Instead, they prefer to let these things go so that we will be compelled to give them more money. It is either that, or gross incompetence.

    • M.Workman

      Could you tell us exactly where and what classroom you saw a cabinet hanging by a single screw please.

      • Guest

        You seem to be awfully defensive toward any criticism of the district. Now you want to know which classroom has a broken cabinet, as if Dismayed Parent is making this up. Have you ever been to Ramona Elementary? The place is practically falling down so I'd bet you can find a bunch of broken cabinets there. Go into any bathroom at the high school and try to find a sink with warm water, or soap in the dispensers, or even paper towels to dry your hands. These are cheap fixes. If the district can't get this right, what would make anybody believe they can be trusted to manage more of our hard-earned money? Why are you such an apologist for the district? What's next: are you going to ask me which bathroom at the high school is out of soap?

  8. Dismayed Parent

    Broken cabinets and chairs were at RHS. Peeling paint and obvious signs of willfully neglect are everywhere

  9. Tired of taxes

    We already pay money every year to support and run our schools. It’s called property taxes. That’s their purpose. But when incompetent government wastes our money then they come right back to us for more money, more money, more money! Stop giving in to these thieves who just waste almost every dime they get from us. I’ve been to most schools in Ramona. Been in the bathrooms and the class rooms. I saw nothing “crumbling” as advertised the last time they tried to pass a bond. Learn to live with what we have. It’s not that bad. If it needs a little renovation then ask the local community to volunteer to help fix it up. I am sure lots of locals would give some time for that. I am already paying $400 a year for some dumb Palomar bond a few years ago. I can’t afford another few hundred dollars added to my taxes. I’M TAPPED OUT! Stop voting in all these liberal legislators! Liberalism doesn’t work. The experiment has been run for the past 6 years at the federal level. It still sucks in the U.S.A.. Government is not the answer it’s the problem. Charity comes from the heart not the forced hand of government! It’s time to vote out of all the incumbents and replace them with honest conservative folks who will truly do what is best for the people and not themselves.

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