BY SARA TABIN
Daily Post Staff Writer
The Foothill-DeAnza Community College District board, which is seeing its enrollment drop, is scheduled to decide Monday whether to put a $900 million bond issue on the ballot or a $48 parcel tax.
The board, which is elected, could decide to go for both measures, just one of them or none.
It’s likely they would go on the March presidential primary ballot.
The bond measure would cost property owners $160 a year for every $1 million in assessed valuation, and it would last 15 years.
The college district’s state funding has declined in recent years because of a decline in students. There were 1,149 fewer students enrolled this year than last year. Enrollment in De Anza college has dropped 13% over the past five years, while enrollment at Foothill College declined 32% between 2007 and 2016.
The $900 million is the amount the district would borrow, but when it comes to repaying the debt to bond holders, the district might have to come up with as much as double that amount in order to pay the interest payments. The exact amount in interest won’t be known the interest rate on the bonds is known, after the sale.
The trustees will also be considering a five-year $48 parcel tax.
Exactly where the money will go isn’t clear.
The college district wants to complete a number of capital improvements including making classrooms more accessible for disabled students, upgrading school technology, repairing old classrooms and investing in online education.
Chancellor Judy Miner said students are still using outdated X-ray machines in their dental hygiene program. She said the district wants to start new programs like online classes and late enrollment periods to make courses accessible to more people.
She said she believes those changes will help increase enrollment.
$1.5 billion wish list
A Nov. 4 presentation from Vice Chancellors Susan Cheu and Joe Moreau said the district wants $1.5 billion for its projects.
Miner said that if the district is successful with the bond measure, the two colleges will spend about six months making a clear list of their priorities for the money.
“We still serve thousands of students and they deserve to have a classroom where there’s not a leak in the roof,” said Trustee Patrick Ahrens. “Students with disabilities deserve to have classrooms that are ADA compliant. This bond and parcel tax can really address all those needs for us.”
Student housing is listed on the bond resolution as a potential use for the money. No specifics about how much would be spent on student housing or where the housing would be located.
Troy Parker, executive director of work training nonprofit Gardner-Lee Workforce & Opportunity Solutions, told the Post in August that he would like to see student housing, but said he is skeptical that the board will prioritize student needs.
After receiving a 2006 bond measure, the district didn’t do enough to help homeless students, said Parker, who spoke at a summer board meeting about his concerns. He told the Post that he would like to see a concrete plan before the college receives more taxpayer money.
“Now you want to go for more funding, but what’s your plan?” he said. “Have you laid out a plan to assist students with housing needs going forward? They have yet to answer that question.”
Foothills Professor Kenneth Horowitz also said that he would like to know exactly what the college will do with the bond money.
Tim Shivley, president of the Foothill De Anza Faculty Association, sent an email to the faculty on Sunday asking them to attend Monday’s meeting and voice support for the bond in case residents push against it.
The email was given to the Post by Horowitz.
Shivley said the most recent salary negotiations can be re-opened if the district gets its bond or parcel tax.
Bond funding can’t go to salaries but parcel tax funding can.
The board will meet on Monday at 6 p.m. in the Foothill College Dining Room (Room 2201), 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills.
Correction: A previous version had the wrong room at Foothill College for Monday’s hearing.
Fewer students, higher taxes — what a formula for success! I’m voting no.
Money grows on trees. No really. Money is paper which comes from wood. Trees are wood. Therefore, always vote to borrow more money so it can be repaid with interest using just money.
1. Enrollment is declining, but they want more money? To save their jobs?
2. They want us to first give them $900M and THEN they will figure out what to do with it: “Miner said that if the district is successful with the bond measure, the two colleges will spend about six months making a clear list of their priorities for the money,” i.e., “Just trust us.”
3. They must think taxpayers are idiots.
I’m grateful the Daily Post has reported this story. I’m concerned that the district hasn’t done more outreach in the community before putting this on the ballot. I think some discussions about the needs of the district should have come before this decision. It might be best to wait until the November ballot and roll this bond issue out on a slower schedule that embraces more input from the community. This strikes me as being too fast for the amount of money involved.