Final results for North County school bonds in: one of three passes

Final results for North County school bonds in: one of three passes
MiraCosta students take part in a biology lab, a difficult class to secure due to facility shortages. MiraCosta’s bond failed, so long-term science labs aren’t likely in the near future. However, MiraCosta has approved funding for modular science labs that will alleviate some demand beginning next fall. Photo by Jared Whitlock

COAST CITIES — Ending weeks of suspense, all of the votes are in for three North County school bonds. 

The $449 million San Dieguito bond, Proposition AA, passed with 55.5 percent in favor, slightly more than the 55 percent required. The $497 million MiraCosta bond, Proposition EE, fell just short with 54.8 percent. The final election results were certified Tuesday afternoon, according to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters.

For nearly a month, residents and school officials watched the bonds hover around the 55 percent threshold as more uncounted provisional and mail ballots trickled in. For instance, three weeks ago, approval of the San Dieguito bond stood at 54.7 percent with 260,000 outstanding ballots.

Support for the MiraCosta bond also climbed from earlier totals. It had 54.07 percent “yes” votes the day after the election, later falling just shy.

“Not all is lost; we communicated MiraCosta’s needs to the community and gained much-appreciated support,” MiraCosta College President Francisco Rodriguez Tuesday afternoon right before the results were certified.

While the bond didn’t get the green light, Rodriguez said MiraCosta’s needs aren’t going away.

The MiraCosta bond would have funded renovations and new buildings throughout MiraCosta’s three campuses. Supporters said that’s necessary because there aren’t enough facilities to accommodate the student body, particularly for biology and chemistry majors.

To alleviate student wait lists in the sciences, the MiraCosta Board of Trustees voted last spring to approve $4.7 million in funding for two modular science labs and a prep room for both its San Elijo and Oceanside campuses. The labs have a five-year life span and are expected to make their debut in Oceanside next fall and spring 2014 at San Elijo. Rodriguez said the labs and other solutions in light of the bond failing are a worthy “plan B,” but not a long-term solution.

More online courses and weekend classes in the future are likely to help bring down student wait lists across a variety of other disciplines. But Rodriguez said not all classes are conducive to the online format, and “presenting an equivalent experience” during the weekend might be difficult given limitations on food services, library hours and counseling programs.

Additionally, MiraCosta will look at shifting resources from less-popular classes to those in demand. Also, Rodriguez said MiraCosta might benefit from property tax receipts slowly rising. 90 percent of the district’s funding comes from property taxes, according to MiraCosta data.

Rodriguez said the district has yet to discuss options for funding future construction. As for why the bond failed: “The economy is tough right now and some voters only voted for one of the bonds on the ballot,” Rodriguez said.

Support for the Del Mar Union School District’s $77 million Proposition CC lagged behind the other two bonds for weeks, but was still considered too close to call. It finished with 54.3 percent.

That means San Dieguito’s Prop AA was the only local school bond that passed.

“We’re very excited; this is something we’ve been working on for years,” said Eric Dill, associate superintendent of district services with the district.

The San Dieguito bond will borrow $449 million over the next 25 to 30 years for technology infrastructure upgrades, rebuilding schools, libraries and other construction for schools throughout the district. To pay for this, property taxes in the district will go up by an estimated $24 to $25 per every $100,000 in assessed value beginning next year.

Thanks to the bonding passing, San Dieguito will first complete a host of less-intensive projects while waiting for the state to approve heavier construction in 2014. Next summer, schools in the district will receive bandwidth and fiber optic upgrades, field improvements and other miscellaneous updates. 2014 will see new math and science centers as well as buildings for the arts. Also, construction will start on the Pacific Highlands Ranch elementary school.

 

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