BY SARA TABIN
Daily Post Staff Writer
The board of trustees of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District voted unanimously last night (Nov. 25) to put two tax questions to the voters in March — a $900 million bond measure and a $48 parcel tax.
At last night’s meeting at the Foothill campus in Los Altos Hills, many students and faculty said they wanted the bond money spent to build student housing.
But Trustee Peter Landsberger said people shouldn’t count on the bond money going to housing.
Landsberger said he thinks housing is important whether or not the bond passes, but said the bond is meant for broad improvements on campus. He said he doesn’t think the public wants the district to change its priorities from education to housing. Trustee Patrick Ahrens told supporters of the bond and parcel tax that they will need to campaign for it by participating in phone banks and talking to their neighbors.
“It’s going to take each and every one of us in the room to win this campaign,” he said.
It is not clear exactly where the bond or parcel tax money would go. The district has a long list of potential projects including improving earthquake safety, fixing up classrooms and increasing online classes.
Bond money can not be used for teacher salaries, but parcel tax money can.
Ahrens said he hopes money from the parcel tax can go to support adjunct faculty members who often struggle to make ends meet.
Carol Cini, co-chair of DeAnza College’s history department, said the heat often doesn’t work in campus classrooms. She also said she wants to see the campus electric car chargers get fixed.
Other attendees asked for more gender-neutral bathrooms and more parking. Students also asked for the parcel tax to be used to improve mental health resources on campus.
The bond measure would cost property owners $160 a year for every $1 million in assessed valuation, and it would last 15 years. The bond will need 55% of the vote to pass while the parcel tax needs two-thirds of the vote.
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.
Chancellor Judy Miner told the Post last week that improvements made with the bond money could increase enrollment.
Piano teacher Jeremy Erman said he doesn’t buy that argument. Erman said last night that he thinks students are leaving because classes, especially art classes, are being cut. He said the bond won’t solve the district’s enrollment crisis since fancy buildings and supplies won’t help unless classes are restored. He asked the board to use parcel tax money to bring back art programs.
Ashley Aquino, a student government member at De Anza, said the district should invest more in vocational courses. She said the district’s massage therapy course has been cut which has made some students unable to meet their career goals.
Aquino also asked for more student housing support. She said she lives in a small trailer and stays on campus until it closes to do school work.
The $900 million is the amount the district would borrow, but when it comes to repaying the debt to bondholders, 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 until the interest rate on the bonds is determined at the time they’re sold.
I’ll tell you why enrollment is down.
1. Fewer courses and classes available. Some courses are offered just one quarter per year.
2. Overcrowded classes where beginning and advanced studens are lumped together.
3. The same teachers teach the same courses quarter after quarter. There is little diversity.
4. Can’t repeat the same course.
If you’re a community member who wants to take acrylic painting on a regular basis, the most you can take are three times (Acylic I, II, and III). The only work around is for the teacher to fail you so you can repeat the course. This restriction works for students who take the courses as part of their degree requirements, but not for the community at large. This are the reasons I stopped taking classes.
I will not be voting for the bond measure or the parcel tax.
I’d like to see a binding plan that spells out how each dollar will be used. Without such a plan, I’m voting no.
Crazy 8s. The bond measure is not $900 million. It is $898 million. The proposed parcel tax is not $47 or $49. It is $48. The last bond measure was not $490 million. It was $490.8 million. The earlier bond measure was $248 million. Coincidence? Not at all.
This is a great opportunity for the community to take care of its own. The professionals at these institutions teach us and our children. They bridge the gap between high school and ivy league. They make essential skills accessible for community members who need them for their livelihoods, as well as for their personal development.
The parcel tax and the bond are the right things to do. And they’re going to keep FHDA at the head of the pack when it comes to community involvement and educational quality. Our community deserves nothing less.
Has anybody gone from these community colleges to the Ivy League? Name one person who did.
40% of the students in our community college district are from outside the district. Why should we pay to educate other people’s kids?
There is no exemption for seniors in the proposed parcel tax.
$900 million is a lot to ask for if you don’t have a plan. I’m voting no. The college district should develop a concrete plan, with price tags on each project, and return to the voters in a year or two with something solid. There’s nothing here but platitudes and promises.
Check the numbers – online enrollment has skyrocketed at Foothill and DeAnza, and the support for those classes is lacking as a whole. The Footill Sunnyvale College opened a few years ago and it is practically empty. New buildings are not the answer to increasing enrollment. I’m voting NO!