By Maureen Robertson
Ramona school district trustees fine-tuned details of a proposed $60 million bond measure Monday morning.
On July 2, they plan to review and possibly vote to place a revised proposal on the November ballot. The meeting, scheduled to start at 7 p.m., will be in the Wilson Administrative Center, 729 Ninth St.
“Ramona schools are in great need of repairs and modernization,” Board President Dan Lopez said after the Monday workshop. “Many of us have seen the deterioration of our schools, leaky roofs, grassless fields, cracked blacktops, obsolete technology, and the list goes on.”
The board needs to create a bond the community will support so “it’s their bond,” said Jon Isom of Isom Advisors, the firm advising the district.
In statewide elections this month, 25 of the 34 school bonds on ballots passed, he said, adding that of the 15 his firm worked with, 14 passed.
While voters support school bonds, they have to be “the community’s bond,” stressed Isom, saying part of the reason for Isom Advisors’ success is capturing the essence of what a community will support.
A $60 million general obligation bond would mean an additional property tax of $60 a
year per $100,000 of assessed value, the value the county places on the property. That amount changes and is on each year’s property tax statement from the county assessor.
The district started public talks with Isom Advisors in May 2011. A survey the firm conducted of 400 district voters in March showed support for a bond, the firm reported.
Isom’s review of the proposed resolution included, among other topics, legal requirements and criteria needed for an endorsement from the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. A stamp of approval from the taxpayers association means “they’ll put their name on the ballot argument, send out letters, let you use their logos,” said Isom.
Among taxpayer association criteria are no hand-held technology devices such as laptop computers for students, and appointing an association member to the Citizens’ Oversight Committee that will review bond expenditures, projects and plans to ensure they comply with what voters approved.
“Also, they want to make sure the district has sufficient resources to continue to maintain whatever projects you’re going to be building,” said Isom.
A detailed breakdown of proposed projects by site is another association requirement, he said.
Trustee consensus was the association’s endorsement is important.
During review of the 75 words proposed for the first paragraph on the ballot, trustees agreed it is important for voters to know that all the money is for school projects. They changed “construct new classrooms” to “modernize or construct classrooms” and “no money for administrators’ salaries” to “no money for district salaries.”
Trustee Bob Stoody wants it clearly stated that the district will spend a portion of proposed bond money to repay a $25 million district loan. Not satisfied with wording on page 4 of of the proposed ballot text, he said, “I would rather be very clear to somebody what we’re voting on.”
The proposed bond has the support of the president of the district’s two unions, said Superintendent Robert Graeff.
“How do you guys feel with respect to your conversations at the local level?” Isom asked the trustees. “That’s the name of the game, guys. The survey’s there, the support statewide is there, but these are about local issues.”
Lopez sees a need for more education.
“My sphere, I believe, can be influenced and educated in a way where the majority can become very proactive in helping this bond get passed,” he said.
Few people he’s talked with are adamantly opposed, but “there are a couple people on that list of influential groups or organizations that are undecided based on different situations that are going on that have nothing to do with the bond.”
“The statewide issues were a big factor in the conversations that I had,” said Trustee Dawn Perfect, noting “it was difficult to separate the conversation between what’s going on at the state level and what we’re looking at locally.”
“Mine were probably about half,” said Trustee Rodger Dohm, who talked with church leaders and others. “...The comment is they (church leaders) believe that it’s the right thing to do and their heart’s in it. They just don’t know if their members could support it.”
To succeed, a school bond needs at least 55 percent of votes cast.
The proposed bond “will provide our community the opportunity to support our schools in a way where we will be able to control 100 percent of the funds,” Lopez said after the meeting. “I am hopeful that my board colleagues agree with me and that our community is given the opportunity to pass this much-needed bond.”