Ramona trustees to review bond consultant’s proposed contract
By Maureen Robertson
In an apparent effort to gain consensus, two Ramona Unified school trustees and Superintendent Robert Graeff will review a proposed contract with Urban Futures Inc. and renegotiate with Isom Advisors, the Urban Futures division that will work as bond consultant for the district.
The school board’s 5-0 vote came after trustee Bob Stoody expressed concerns about what he called possible land mines in the proposal.
The five-member board is expected to consider results of the renegotiation at a special meeting March 5 at 5:15 p.m. in the district office board room, 720 Ninth St.
“At a minimum, I’d like to not pass this contract until we take it to a fee-based person and say, ‘please look at this contract and tell us where the land mines are,’” said Stoody.
Stoody said he had sleepless nights during the district’s failed attempt to pass a $66 million general obligation bond in 2012.
“I’m not comfortable going back to Isom,” he said.
Isom Advisors was the district’s bond consultant in the 2012
The defeat in 2012 had more to do with “circumstances of the day” than the district’s strategy, said Graeff. Among factors affecting the district’s 2012 bond bid were state tax-increase proposals on the same ballot, the state’s new and unpopular fire fee, negative press, Poway Unified School District’s capital appreciation bond that was making national news, the lack of prominent endorsers, the district’s and the labor dispute with Ramona teachers, according to Graeff and Isom’s post-election analysis.
“Those factors had more to do with our failure last time than anything any adviser might have done,” said Graeff.
“We clearly need to craft a better proposal,” said Dawn Perfect, board president. “We need to be true to the character of our community and craft a proposal that works for the voters here.”
The 2012 bond bid failed by less than 4.5 percent of the required 55 percent yes vote.
With Isom Advisors, total cost to the district’s general fund is about $8,500, said Graeff. Campaign donations will pay campaign consulting fees of $12,500, and, if voters approve the bond, bond proceeds will pay the $35,000 pre-election planning fee and the $75,000 per bond sale fee, states information Isom Advisors provided the district.
“This is long overdue that this community gets a school bond for its public schools,” said Graeff.
Stoody said he didn’t believe Isom Advisors supported the district’s 2012 bond campaign committee.
“They were kind of ready to hand the monkey and put it back on our back rather than take it on their back,” he said.
“I’m very comfortable with this, very comfortable with this,” said trustee Kim Lasley, one of six district representatives on the interview committee that recommended Urban Futures at the school board meeting on Feb. 13.
Stoody also expressed disappointment that the consultant didn’t pursue “a simple idea that Mr. Rajcic had on making sure that mail-in ballots (were collected). That simple change right there, which I would have expected an adviser to give us, could have turned the coin right there.”
Stoody’s reference was to a recommendation trustee John Rajcic made before and after his election to the board in 2012.
Graeff said the Isom group plans to do things differently this time.
Serving with Graeff, Perfect and Lasley on the interview committee were Assistant Superintendent David Ostermann, Ramona Teachers Association President Cori McDonald and Sun Valley Council PTA President Kristina Krohne.
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