Schools

Berkeleyside guide: Understanding Measures H and I


Berkeley High School's Old Gymnasium. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Berkeleyans will have five local ballot measures on November 2 — in addition to the election of City Council, School Board and a variety of other Berkeley posts. Berkeleyside will cover all five measures, starting today with Measures H and I.

Berkeleyside does not plan to endorse any measures or candidates, but we want to provide an objective analysis for our readers.

H and I are both school district measures. H is a special tax, and I allows the BUSD to issue $210 million in bonds. The context for both measures is an undeniably harsh economic climate for education in California. The BUSD has cut about $14 million in the past three years out of an annual budget of $90 million.

Measure H

H provides for a continuation of the BUSD’s special tax for maintenance of 6.31 cents per square foot on residential buildings, 9.46 cents per square foot on commercial buildings and $20 on unimproved parcels, with annual cost-of-living adjustments for 10 years (the Alameda County Counsel’s impartial analysis of the measure mis-states the tax by 100-fold). It requires a two-thirds vote to pass.

Measure H, if passed, will provide the BUSD with about $5 million annually to fund all maintenance on school buildings, landscaping and grounds. Maintenance funds currently come from Measure BB which expires in two years.

Why does the BUSD need H now, if there are still two years to run for BB? In California, school districts now need to show financial sustainability over three years. Measure H’s special tax would start in July 2013. Without the maintenance funds, the BUSD would likely receive a “qualified budget” approval from the Alameda County Office of Education, which restricts the autonomy of the local school board.

To avoid a qualified budget the BUSD would have to either cut $5 million a year from its three-year budget or find the monies elsewhere.

Measure I

Measure I, which requires a 55% vote to pass, allows the BUSD to issue up to $210 million in bonds to fund specific projects listed in the measure (and only those projects). Among the projects are: a new classroom building, improved technology and athletics facilities at Berkeley High School; new elementary school classrooms; new science labs, career and technical education classrooms; and major replacements such as roofs and boilers.

The proposed tax rate for Measure I bond is $60 per $100,000 of assessed value. Together with other BUSD bonds, the total tax rate will not exceed $172.80 per $100,000 of assessed value.

Opponents of the measure have pointed to what they see as unkept promises from Measure AA and inadequate audits of that previous bond measure (see, for example, comments from Berkeleyside readers here).

Among the projects listed in Measure AA was a renovation of Berkeley High’s old gym to provide new classrooms. As the dilapidated state of the old gym shows (photo above), that renovation never happened. According to supporters of Measure I, two things derailed that original plan. First, the old Building B at the high school was damaged by fire and had to be demolished. Second, analysis of the old gym revealed that its renovation would have cost more than the $19 million forecast in AA. Some of that money was spent on design of the new building and will be spent on demolition of the old gym. The new building provided by Measure I, should it pass, is budgeted at $28 million.

Also controversial was the construction of a new transportation facility using AA funds, rather than new classrooms. The BUSD argues it was being financially prudent, saving $500,000 a year and avoiding further cuts to programs. The wording of AA did provide for the district to spend on facilities as it saw fit.

So what will be different with Measure I? AA was passed with a two-thirds majority and its terms did not require a separate audit. Further, funds from Measure AA were placed in the same account as funds from the earlier Measure A. The district accounts for all funds spent, but it’s impossible to untangle what came from A and what came from AA monies.

Measure I, with the lower standard of a 55% hurdle, requires both an annual performance audit and an annual financial audit of the bond proceeds, which will be separate from the district’s regular annual financial audit. Measure I funds will be held in a separate account. “Regardless of how you feel AA performed, there are many more safeguards added on to this now,” said Eric Weaver, co-chair of the Yes on Measures H & I campaign.

Opponents of both measures are concerned about high tax rates in Berkeley. The BUSD’s current bond tax rate is approximately $146.30 per $100,000 of assessed value and is designed not rise above a maximum rate of $172.80 per $100,000 of assessed value. This compares to a rate in West Contra Costa Schools that is currently $183.90 per $100,000 of assessed value and is predicted to reach a rate of $230.80 per $100,000 of assessed value. BUSD-related taxes, of course, are only part of the overall taxation paid by Berkeley property owners.

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  • deirdre

    Measure I, elementary school classrooms: I’m curious to know whether these classrooms would be additional rooms or replacement rooms — e.g, built in response to the growing enrollment in the BUSD north zone (which has had a ripple effect across all zones).

    Also, any info on whether they would be portable classrooms or brick & morter construction.

    Also, I’m curious about the construction occurring around the former BHS baseball field: what is being built?

    Berkeleyside: thanks for the interesting content posted yesterday and today.

  • Jacob

    Great post! Thanks, Berkeleyside for bringing awareness to these crucial measures. We as a community need to whole-heartedly support our public schools! Yes on Measures H & I!

  • Rosaparent

    My child will be going to Berkeley High in a few years so it’s important for us elementary school parents to support the measures. I just put up a sign in my yard for H&I. You can order them from the campaign website berkeleyschools2010.com

  • Maureen Burke

    A few comments:

    1) The school construction bond tax rate CAN exceed $172.80 per $100K assessed value. This rate is based on an assumption that Berkeley property values will increase 5% per year through 2060. If property values do not increase by this amount, the tax rate must increase. Readers can come to their own conclusions as to the wisdom of this assumption.

    2) The Building B fire occurred in April 2000 and was the impetus for the Measure AA bond measure. To use the cost of demolishing the building as an excuse for not building classrooms at Berkeley High is….choose your own word.

    3) Why did you choose to compare West Contra Costa County School District to BUSD? It’s very misleading. West Contra County has over 30,000 students and has experienced dramatic growth in student enrollment over the past 20 years. BUSD enrollment has been relatively stable at around 9,400, with an influx of about 200 elementary students recently, as Deirdre notes above. Still, BUSD demographic studies project no significant enrollment changes through 2020. There’s been a slight decrease over the past 10 years. So, if you want to compare West Contra Costa County school bond assessments to BUSD, please cut it by 2/3 to reflect the relative sizes of the districts you’re comparing. That would bring the figure to about $65/$100K assessed value if you want to compare what other school districts are doing to BUSD. And it would be helpful to compare enrollment growth between the two as well. BUSD has less than a 2% fluctuation and West Contra Costa has doubled in size over the past 2 decades, so cut that figure by half and it comes to $32.50 per $100,000 as a realistic comparison. Instead, BUSD bond assessments are more than five times that amount.

    Please add in the maintenance tax and the BSEP tax to the total amount paid to BUSD, and it is $280.60 per $100,000 of assessed value. This is before Measure I, and the amount can go up (see 1) above). This for a district of about 9,400 students that is not experiencing significant enrollment gains over extended periods.

    I urge everyone to read the bond measure carefully. It states that inclusion of a project is not a guarantee of funding or completion. So again, we don’t know what will actually get built. This undermines any promise of safeguards.

    Re high tax rates, that is not my major concern, although I wonder how people will be able to retire in this town when the school bond assessment will be extended through 2060. My concern is that the district is dysfunctional, has a proven incapability of delivering on its promises, and will waste the money, as it has in the past.

    I would back a well-written, smaller school construction bond measure that will deliver specific projects to us. This one won’t.

  • laura menard

    Just got my tax bill, 25% goes to BUSD.

    Jacob implores us to “whole-heartedly support our public schools”, as a parent volunteer for over 20 years I did. What I have learned is that this community has low expectations for accountability which invites abuses.

    Do I trust BUSD, not yet. Did they treat my kids fairly or provide a decent education preparing them sufficiently for college, definitely not.

    Eric Weaver- will those annual audits be mailed out to residents? the district could forgo the glossy PR mailing and send out audits instead. I look forward to the school board losing the culture of defensiveness and embracing transparency and community engagement.

    My sister’s kids in Ventura received a better education, more enrichment, healthier social setting, less hassles, more counseling support, parent involvement, music and sports without parcel taxes. Ventura is a very ethnically and economically diverse community.

    Berkeley still does not have its priorities in order.

  • Zach

    I’m voting yes on H&I. My tax bill has 16.6% going to BUSD, or $1188, which seems pretty reasonable to me. It doesn’t look like that H&I are going to increase that number significantly, these are primarily renewals/continuations of existing tax levels.

    I am certain that there are a lot of areas where BUSD could be smarter with its money, but to me that’s something that should be addressed through things like electing better school board candidates, not by reducing the amount of resources available to the schools.

  • Jay Nitschke

    Informative post.

    It did leave out the good news that Berkeley’s test scores (just one measure of the success of our students) have been rising steadily. The past year saw amazing gains. My kids are thriving in the schools (7th and 10th grade).

    While the state continues to reduce education funding (three straight years) and the way the state “balanced” 2010-11, you can be certain 11-12 and 12-13 will most likely be worse.

    It is a sad fact of California education that each community must supports its own schools.

    Measure H continues, without a tax increase, a small tax that keeps the schools looking good and are safe places to learn. Everyone seems to agree on YES on Measure H.

    Measure I, the facilities bond, provides the funds to complete the high school. Right now, 11 portables sit on the softball field. Those classrooms are vitally needed. Also, every elementary school except one is at capacity. As young families move into Berkeley, 300+ students are coming in the next 5 years according to a demographic study.

    At Jefferson, my kids former school, the former kitchen is being turned in classrooms. There are 17 portable classrooms at various elementary schools. The district needs elementary classrooms now.

    There is plenty of accountability in both Measures. Berkeley has strong and active committees, and the complete school board agenda and packet (the material that explains the agenda items) are posted on the district website.

    Yes on Measures H & I.

  • laura menard

    http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2010-10-12/article/36464?headline=Support-Education-and-Accountability-Yes-on-H-No-on-I

    I agree with Zach electing competent school board directors is a good place to start. In this commentary Priscilla Myrick makes a solid case for a smaller bond measure that is supported by a master facilities plan as more appropriate given the current economic conditions.

  • Abigail S.

    I’ve been reading all the pros and cons, and I am voting for H&I. As a Berkeley parent for the past 10 years who was repelled by the dysfunctionality of the district in the not-so-distant past, I happen to be comforted to see BUSD moving in the right direction towards increased transparency, collaboration, and functionality. Things are far from perfect, but in just 2 years time, through being highly involved, I’ve seen genuine progress in many areas (especially student performance, and better communication with the community). Along with the new superintendent and new administrators, I also think we have a promising slate of school board candidates who are all advocates of good communication, transparency, and fiscal responsibility (at least as I would define it).

    If these measures don’t pass, I fear a higher likelihood of financial funny business (i.e.: shell games) and battling as the district will be forced to find monies from somewhere in the General Fund to make essential repairs, replace old equipment, create additional classroom space for our growing student population, etc. We’re already being strangled by drastic budget cuts from higher up and don’t have enough room for everyone. There is *nowhere else* to find extra money.

    Rather than cutting off even more resources, I’m choosing to vote YES, and if these pass, join committees or attend meetings as needed (perhaps the Measure H or Measure I Citizen’s Oversight Committees) to help ensure appropriate decision-making processes. With the checks and balances of smart, questioning, and involved parents/current administrators/new school board directors, I am trusting not just our district, but our community with these resources that I don’t see how we can live without. Better facilities and equipment for our kids improves their outlook and learning environment; and for home owners, better BUSD facilities increases property values. I voting YES on H & I.

  • Stephanie Allan

    The discussion back and forth on these two measures is one of the reasons I like living here. I’ve worked on all the construction bonds since 1990 when my son was entering the BUSD, following the Loma Prieta earthquake. I helped write and pass the parcel tax to fund maintenance so that the enormous investment we’ve made in these schools would be protected by proper preventative maintenance. This bond measure finishes the work started in 1991. The District began by upgrading the elementary schools, then the middle schools and now will finish the work on BHS, along with some other essential items, like more science labs, elementary classrooms (as we’re experiencing growth!), space for career technical education and major system replacements like roofs and boilers. And it will finally build the athletic facilities the more than 3000 students at BHS & B-Tech and City need; the multi-purpose field at Derby & MLK and the south of Bancroft softball field. As someone who’s worked with the Construction Advisory Committee, chaired the Maintenance Advisory Committee, participated in all the bond campaigns and worked on field issues with the District as well as being a parent volunteer from kindergarten through my son’s 2004 graduation, I’ve seen problems with BUSD administrations, but never malfeasance or a lack of concern for students. And I’ve always found BUSD administrators (with perhaps one or two exceptions) responsive to parents and community members. The key, as has been mentioned before, is the Board. I think in this election, by the way, we have a chance to elect a board majority that will be independent of the administration, engaged, focused on improving education and with a healthy dose of skepticism. As for these constant complaints about audits, I think it means people weren’t paying attention because audits were done, required by the various bonds, were presented to the Board, were in Board packets and available to the public. Measures H&I were well thought out, drafted with community & parent participation and represent a chance for this City to continue its investments in our schools in a responsible, comprehensive and responsible way. When the earthquake comes, you’ll be able to go to your nearest school. It will be standing and safe. That’s where our money’s gone.

  • laura menard

    Do folks realize how many of these highly favorable comments are being posted by BUSD staff including management, is this your idea of transparency?

  • Frances Dinkelspiel

    Laura, I see that one of the commentators works for BUSD. It would be helpful for those who are working inside the district to be frank about that. They can have a helpful perspective and do not need to hide their affiliation.

  • Abigail S.

    I don’t work for BUSD. Just an involved parent working in a totally unrelated field.

  • Robert Collier

    I’m the proud father of a six-month-old boy who eventually will spend 13 years in Berkeley public schools, so I have a huge vested interest in a victory for H & I. And so do thousands (no, tens of thousands) of current and future Berkeley school parents. This is the foundation of our community — keeping our school system healthy. If H & I are defeated, the result would be severe budget cuts in BUSD, impacting not just building maintenance but class size and educational programs, as well as causing worsened decay and overcrowding of buildings and facilities. In the end, this is not about politics or audits or budgets or assessments. It’s about children. My wife and I, and all our friends, want to help Berkeley schools be as good as they can possibly be, with all the resources they need. And that means getting H & I approved. We will gladly, passionately vote “yes” on H & I.

  • Maureen Burke

    Test scores at Berkeley High School have continued their long decline again this year. I posted those declines elsewhere on Berkeleyside. I wish people would include Berkeley High when discussing academic achievement gains in our district. Let’s quit hiding facts and face them instead. Only way things get fixed.

    I also wish everyone would really take the time to read this bond measure. The way it is written, nothing has to get built and no one will get in trouble. Why is the district insisting on giving itself so many outs in this bond measure? Accountability is not an add-on feature for bond measures. It must be built in. The systemic deficiencies manifested in Measure AA have not even been acknowledged by the district, much less fixed. We will really be sorry in 10 years if this bond measure passes. Please consider forcing the district to write a specific measure for specific purposes, the way other districts do it. They simply have to institute internal fiscal controls and reporting mechanisms if we want to see bond money actually result in classrooms.

    I was shocked to read in the initial post that “funds from Measure AA were placed in the same account as funds from the earlier Measure A. ” It is illegal for bond funds to be co-mingled. Is the district really admitting to this while telling us to trust them on this next, twice as large, bond measure? This certainly explains why they couldn’t obtain financial audits on Measure AA. And that only underlines the need for fiscal controls that do not currently exist. Stephanie, no financial audits of Measure AA were ever performed. Once again–no financial audits of Measure AA were ever performed. I’m quite surprised this issue continues to pop up. Please tell us all which specific board meeting packets contain the financial audits of Measure AA. I will be the first to pay attention and read through each year’s packet that contains that financial audit of Measure AA. And while you’re at it, perhaps you can explain why the 9/5/2007 board meeting packet was removed from the BUSD website–the meeting at which Measure AA monies were reallocated from BHS classrooms to the bus yard etc. Please, someone have the district put that board meeting information back up on the web. Also Stephanie, I and many of my friends did not share your Panglossian experience with BUSD administrators.

  • laura menard

    Stephanie Allan was the local 39 union rep for BUSD classified staff for years. She regularly spoke on behalf of maintenance staff at board meetings.
    Stephanie and Terry Doran are likely the most responsible people for creating such a difficult, divisive and ultimately failed decade long process around the Derby baseball field development.

    For families who live in south Berkeley with limited parks and open space yet burdened with street level drug dealing and unsafe streets, it was very depressing to seeing the blighted field with debilitated buildings year after year. During our crime prevention meetings residents would routinely complain about the condition of the property and the arrogant disregard from the proponents caught up in a battle so polarized reasonable options were shouted down. Finally the option of Curvy Derby was developed and is moving forward, but only after exhaustion calmed down the most strident proponents of closing the street for field construction.

    Many of the same process and communication failures by BUSD and the City are visible in the south campus planning process resulting in options being ignored and the delay of the old gym demolition.

    The moral smokescreen of “we must do this for the children” is meaningless. Rather ironic to hear it from Robert Collier following the smearing of opponents of the pool measure as anti tax and tea party members. Neither was true then nor is it true now.

    Unlike Stephanie this kind of overtly political process masquerading as community development is exactly why I do not like Berkeley. Particularly when this claim of we are doing it for student safety is used to promote higher taxes and bond measures. I do resent hearing from district administrators about their children “thriving” yet the administrations turns blind eye when Berkeley residents’ children are not safe in our schools from bullying, intimidation and violence committed by out of district students. I have been advocating for best practices in safe school development for years, Jay Nitschke and Mark Coplan now district staff were peers on the PTA Council. Because of my knowledge and passion I was selected by the council to be parent advocate for several years. So I have a pretty good idea of whether or not our schools are prepared for an earthquake or if students safety is being managed well.

    As I said before, Berkeley Unified still does not have its’ priorities in order.
    I agree with Abigail there is some hope, but not as glowing as she has presented here. Yesterday Washington DC schools chief Michelle Rhee announced her departure after a well publicized tenure which resulted in significant student achievement gains. When interviewed she was frank about one of her biggest errors, poor communications in bringing folks along in the process, BUSD and my Berkeley Betters (the cheerleaders of all things great in Berkeley) could learn from that statement.

  • Robert Collier

    Laura Menard’s comment that she “do(es) not like Berkeley” is telling, given her bitter, personal tone and her repeated attempts to prevent needed civic improvements at the schools and pools. I suspect that all supporters of H & I share one fundamental set of opinions — we like Berkeley. It’s our home, and our children’s home. And that’s why we’re willing to invest in improving it.

  • laura menard

    Robert,

    Taking comments out of context and than using them to disparage a person’s character definitely aligns you with tea party tactics.

    Just stop.

    My record of commitment and successes for community improvements speaks for itself. I took on tough issues with a seriousneess and courage unusual in Berkeley.

    I did so because as a mom I saw experiences personally the systemic failures and took up the mission of bringing forward evidence based solutions in both the schools and community.
    How dare you attempt to paint my practical realism as simply bitter.

    Did you know I served on the music committee for three years making sure that the draconian cuts to that program did not harm the quality of curriculum. Did you know I volunteered in the cafeteria long before it was fashionable to recycle and cut down the waste from school lunches by 50% at Arts Magnet.

    Did you know that the Parent Student handbook mailed out to district families is the result of my multi-year advocacy.

    I have more accomplishments worry of praise for my committment to Berkeley kids. Not to mention how much I have done to improve the safety around Longfellow and for BHS kids, not to mention the crime reduction work which has benefited the entire city but in particular the south Berkeley communtiy.

    Before you try to ostracize me from the community I have lived in for 35 years raising two sons, take note public ostracism is a form of bullying.

    Did you know that my work on school bullying was the reason the district revised the sexual harassment policy, the anti discrimination policy and brought specific programming to address bullying in schools.

    As a school board member recently said to me, “everyone on whatever side knows your content is very good”.

  • EBGuy

    Just got my tax bill, 25% goes to BUSD.
    Cough, cough… Prop 13….

    Laura and Maureen, As always, thank you for your postings. I’m most likely to hold my nose and vote for both at this point (I’m hoping I don’t have a reason to be cynical a decade down the road.) I do have to appreciate the bus yard alchemy which converted a bond to general operating expenses (through savings, we all win, right?).

  • Maureen Burke

    EBGuy,

    Please consider this–vote yes on H, vote no on I, then hope the district will come back in a year or two with an intelligent and responsible bond measure that’s smaller, targeted, and based on a real needs assessment. Then you and I and a lot of people can support that new and improved bond measure. This one is so wiggly it is a guaranteed mess and don’t hold your breath for a project to happen or get completed at your local school with Measure I.

  • EBGuy

    Twenty million dollars for vo-ed, technology upgrades and solar. What’s not to love? I do get your point, but think of the children (my children, specifically — they’re going to need that new cafeteria at Longfellow. Really.) Sigh…

  • Wanda Brown

    I voted for the tax that had Berkeley High classrooms at the very top. That was 10 years ago when my son was in kindergarten. He came home so mad yesterday from Berkeley High. He can’t talk to his teachers after class because they pack up and run to get to the next classroom. There aren’t enough to go around. When I got my voter pamphlet I pretended Measure I was a bid from a contractor. It looked good. I’d get so many things done. Then I read the details. The contractor doesn’t promise any of those good sounding things will get done or even started. The contractor messed up on the project before this one and didn’t even build what he said he would but he got paid for it anyway. And then he wants to get paid twice for it. I would kick that guy down the stairs and so would all you people telling us to vote for this big pot of nothing. If you are rich then you don’t care about pouring money down a hole but if you are poor then you can’t afford to do that. I work two jobs and my mom lives with us. I don’t have a husband to help with bills, no cushy job with college or city or schools. I don’t have time to go to meetings to make sure money isn’t spent stupid after the barn doors shut. If you people vote yes on this you make me pay too. I need that bond tax off my property bill before I retire. My retirement will be social security $1750 a month. I can’t pay $150 a month to schools then even if I get my mortgage paid off when I retire. You want to help the children then help mine and don’t make us lose our house by making us pay the price for another one of your bad ideas. $150 a month is a lot of money to us even if it’s nothing to you.

  • Peggy

    You can find out more at the SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES FORUM
    Monday Oct. 18, 2010 from 7:00-9:00pm
    Berkeley Community Theatre
    1980 Allston Way, Berkeley
    because the last part of the evening, 8:30-9 will now be a debate on Measures H&I. So come meet all 6 school board candidates, ask questions, and then hear both sides debate the measures.
    Details:
    http://www.bhs.berkeleypta.org/#1018

  • Amber Evans

    Enrollment projections (which note slight increase) must consider the converison of Franklin to the Adult School. The loss of at least 300 seats and possibly 400 seats has repercussions throughout district and for me it is a key reason for voting for Measure I as well as H. Lets make the schools accommodating these kids actually accommodate them rather then stuffing them in rooms once cherished as the Science or computer Lab or a corner of the cafeteria.

  • Peter Kuhn

    The annual budget of BUSD the past few years has been around $110 million, not $90 million.

    It would be more useful to compare the total amount of bonds approved by districts of comparable size than the estimated property tax payment, since that can go up. And I am puzzled as to why you would choose West Contra Costa County for comparison–a formerly bankrupt district that is about to be bankrupt again, more than 3 times the size of BUSD, and with huge enrollment increases. What was your rationale for this comparison?

    Berkeley leads the pack in California for total bonds approved, even before Measure I. Total school construction bonds approved in BUSD (9,400 students) since mid-80s is $274.5 million. If Measure I passes, this amount would increase to $484.5 million! Compare this to South San Francisco Unified (9,368 students) with total bonds approved of $40 million, or Milpitas Unified (9.649 students) with total bonds approved of $64.7 million, or Morgan Hill Unified (9,704 students) with total bonds approved of $72.5 million. http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us

    We’re doing something wrong here, folks.

  • Albert Sukoff

    Measure I. It’s for the children! Really?

    Deep Throat said “Follow the money.” As of the last filing posted by the Office of the City Clerk, the supporters of Measure H and I had raised $116,000 to convince the voters that these measures deserve support. Surely this money came from parents and teachers and other beneficiaries of the Berkeley schools system. Not really.

    Over $100,000 , more than 86% of the money, came from businesses and unions which will benefit directly and significantly from the proposed construction. These include architectural and engineering firms (over $50,000), building trade unions ($20,000) and contractors (over $20,000). In addition there is a healthy contribution from a firm the underwrites bond issues. Contrary the law, many of these contributors did not reveal the nature of their business (available, however, with a quick web search).

    For $100,000, the building industry gets over $200,000,000 in work. Nice return of investment! And Berkeley property owners get the bill which will not be $200,000,000 but, with interest, over $600,000,000. No matter how you feel about the schools, surely there is such a thing as too much. This is too much. We are presented with a list of projects and a disclaimer which allows the School Board to do none of the them, or something else entirely, if they so choose. We deserve something which has been more carefully thought out, a new plan with much more specificity and many fewer dollars.

  • Dawn Morris

    Recent emails and conversations with the BUSD community have led me to believe that many people remain confused about the disposition of Measure AA bond funds. I’ve been told that Measure AA money had to be spent on arson reconstruction and that this unanticipated expense sucked up all the money that was earmarked for Berkeley High classrooms. This is demonstrably untrue. Berkeley High’s Building B burned down in April 2000. The loss of those classrooms was the impetus for Measure AA, which was on the ballot seven months later. Arson reconstruction costs had been known long before Measure AA hit the ballot and were incorporated in the cost estimates for new classrooms at Berkeley High. This is an important point because Measure I is even vaguer in its promises than Measure AA. There have been no reforms, either fiscal or operational, to prevent a similar disaster with Measure I.

    We need a bond measure that guarantees specific projects will be built. Measure I doesn’t do that—it states that no project listed is guaranteed to be built or finished. It’s structured to offer the public even less accountability than Measure AA while providing a legal out for the school board. How can this be in the public interest?

    If you want to know exactly what happened to Measure AA money, I recommend you download this pdf file entitled “Lack of classrooms at Berkeley High promised by Bond Measure AA…Where has all the money gone?” It will give you the entire story, with documentation, and you can read the ballot measure and see the line items and read the sorry history for yourself (Berkeley High classrooms are the very first and largest line item in the budget).
    http://myrick4berkeleyschools.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/measureaa.pdf

  • Dawn Morris

    With that said:

    YES on H; NO on I

  • laura menard

    I find it fascinating that Oakland resident Marleen Sachs, also one of the contracted attorneys for BUSD, has successfully sued the city of Oakland over the failure of Measure Y in delivering the police staffing levels promised in the measure. Measure Y has since by removed from Oakland’s tax bill. Sachs is the author of the voter’s pamphlet statement against the new Measure BB arguing that there is little reason to believe government will deliver on promises.

    As I have said before Berkeley residents need to raise their expectations for government accountability.

    For those interested in citizen empowerment check out her website:

    http://defendingmeasurey.blogspot.com/

  • Maureen Burke

    Wow. I didn’t know you could remove items from a property tax statement. Very fascinating indeed. Hope BUSD pays attention. Thanks for that Laura.

    Thanks for the info on Measure AA as well, Dawn. Excellent point there about why it’s pertinent to Measure I. I hope everyone reads that enlightening document you linked to on why we didn’t get the classrooms we were promised. But gee, people are now using as an excuse for no classrooms unanticipated arson reconstruction expenses? That’s a new one to me. That’s one of the silliest things I’ve ever heard put forward as an excuse and that’s after 20+ years of children coming up with all sorts of ridiculous reasons for why they didn’t do what they knew they were supposed to do. Unanticipated arson reconstruction costs? When the whole raison d’etre for Measure AA was the fact that Building B burned down? That’s too ridiculous, even for Berkeley. It almost makes me want to vote against Measure H just to get these people to wake up. But I will reluctantly vote for Measure H. No on I. The silly season is truly upon us.

  • Mathew Parker

    This is clearly another tax the homeowner scam again. So many pro-I and H forces swan on about THEIR kids and THEIR education and how WE have to pay more in taxes to make THEIR lives better. BUSD and Berkeley love class warfare, and if you can float a bond, get what you want out of it and not pay it’s great, no?
    The taxpayer(homeowner) however is continually raped by the BUSD and the small minds of Club Bates-whereas the development corporations keep getting tax breaks to build mediocre apartments to boost City population.
    First off, businesses are taxed at a higher square footage rate than homeowners. What the heck is that about? Business is TERRIBLE in Berkeley, why harm it further?
    Then, the BUSD makes a moneygrab that puts the City Taxpayer in 610 million dollars in HOCK and they are not getting much for that 1/2 billion plus.
    It is clear that the bonds are going to go to general expenses-a huge and fatal mistake. It’s also clear that they can’t teach basic math in Berkeley High, as any normal math student would never pay 30 dollars to get 10 dollars of benefits.
    This is more kicking the can down the road-failing to make the right decisions and binging on credit card debt when a smaller general tax would suffice.

  • Mathew Parker

    The assumption that property values will go up is a farce. The real estate market is in a secular downfall-expect 30% more declines for a long period of time. Pinning the tax rate to their fantastical inflation expectations, using whatever ever mysterious gauge they use, is clearly showing how clueless the City and BUSD is getting.

  • Mathew Parker

    Best quote ever,”My child will be going to Berkeley High in a few years so it’s important for us elementary school parents to support the measures. I just put up a sign in my yard for H&I. You can order them from the campaign website berkeleyschools2010.com”

    And when your kid leaves, maybe you won’t be so generous with other peoples’ money? Are you out to lunch?

  • Maureen Burke

    The probability of a big earthquake in Berkeley within the next 50 years is high. Measure I will be paid off during the next 50 years, during which time BUSD will be maxed out on bond carrying capacity. One or more schools will likely need extensive repair/reconstruction after a major earthquake. There will be no money for it. BUSD will not be able to issue more bonds until Measure I is paid off in 2060. I searched for an earthquake reserve in Measure I and could not find one. It is much more professional, effective and transparent to create such a reserve up-front rather than deciding to re-allocate money later on for repairs that were known to be likely. I just do not understand why we cannot have a school construction bond measure that tells us exactly what we’ll get, how much it will cost, and provides a generally accepted reserve for contingencies.