It's here -- the perfect storm. Fremont faces the costly convergence of four great challenges to its local public schools: aging facilities, overcrowding, class-size reduction, and mandated new curriculum (Common Core).
With passages of Proposition 30, local Measure K, and the 2002 Schools' Health & Safety Bond, Fremont voters have historically shown their willingness to take responsibility for their public schools. So why are some Fremont voters questioning Measure E?
They've looked up the "Yes on E" campaign contributions.
Measure E is a Fremont tax measure, yet $161,000 -- 80 percent -- of $201,954 campaign contributions to "Yes on Measure E" are from developers and contractors located outside of Fremont.
They've looked up the numbers.
The $407,727,000 of school board-approved project costs are detailed by school, by category in Fremont Unified School District's Long Range Facilities Plan. The remaining $242,273,000 is deemed unallocated, set aside for cost overruns and inflation.
Voters who want to know how their 38-year property tax increase will be spent see in the Long Range Facilities Plan that 27 elementary schools and all five high schools are allocated zero Measure E dollars to Category 4, "Plumbing & Restrooms;" and 27 elementary schools and all five high schools are allocated zero Measure E dollars for Category 9, "New & Replacement Classrooms."
Voters are left to assume that another bond measure will come to ballot soon because no Measure E money currently is allocated to address overcrowding at the high schools. In spring 2015, KB homes will build 500 homes in North Fremont; 2,700 homes are planned for Warm Springs. Additional housing projects are planned for many other lots throughout Fremont. And the school board has a wish list of $ 1.6 billion.
Voters can see in the Long Range Facilities Plan that $¿24,622,000 for new "Flexible Furniture" is allocated to Category 12, "21st Century Learning Environment," and they wonder why the school board would allocate this amount first toward new "Flexible Furniture" when the need for "New Classrooms" for high schools is so obvious.¿
The "Yes on E" team is calling voters and telling them that repairs are desperately needed. "Yes on E" fliers are mailed out, with pictures of a toilet and school science lab, and slogans:
"Measure E will renovate children's restrooms. Measure E will modernize aging labs and classrooms." But zero dollars are allocated to the five high schools and 27 elementary schools for these categories.
There is no doubt taxpayer funds are needed to combat the perfect storm. This is not the time for misleading mailers and questionable priorities.
This is the time for school board to gain voter trust, not lose it. This is the time for the board to be transparent, specific, and not expect voters to approve $242,273,000 in unallocated funds.
Fremont voters have no choice while the City Council approves one housing project after another, creating overcrowding. They had no choice about the Common Core mandate.
But they do have a choice as to how their property taxes should be spent. On June 3, they can say "No to Measure E" and ask the board to write a better bond, one that prioritizes bond money allocations to solve overcrowding, fix bathrooms and repair dilapidated classrooms.
Mary Biggs is a resident of Fremont.