At its October 10 meeting, the Anaheim Union High School District Board of Education voted unanimously to place a $398 million school bond on the March 2020 ballot for voter consideration.
If passed, property owners would be taxed at a maximum rate of $30 per $100,000 of assessed valuation of taxable property. So, a homeowner whose house has an assessed value of $700,000 would find another $210 tacked onto his or her property tax bill. Since single-family homes constitute 44% of the assessed property valuation in the AUHSD, the proposed bond’s costs will fall most heavily on homeowners.
The AUHSD’s revenues for the 2018-2019 fiscal year were $407,973,348; expenditures were $425,600,076. 51% of AUHSD spending was for employee salaries, and another 29% was for pensions and benefits.
AUSHD has experienced declining student enrollment for years. The estimated enrollment for the 2019-2020 school year is 28,450 – down from 30,339 in 2013-2014. However, district spending has been increasing even as the number of students enrolled in AUSHD schools has been decreasing.
The AUHSD spent about $40,000 this summer on polling (using the political polling firm Fairbanks, Maslin, Maullin, Metz) to gauge voter receptiveness to passing yet another school bond. According to the district’s “Community Colloquium Consensus Report,” the poll showed 61% of AUHSD voters supportive of another school bond.
This report was dutifully signed by the district’s executive leadership, principals and consultants. It called for the AUHSD to undertake a communications campaign to build voter support for the impending bond initiative, including:
- “Message to voters the plans for the use of funds”
- “Use existing school activities (coffee, walks, etc.) to inform”
- “Educate on how bonds work and how the funds will be spent”
- “Use tools such as website, social media, time-lapse videos, etc.”
- “Engage and hold accountable our cities and city council members”
In other words, use taxpayer dollars to build voter support for a political campaign.
While the bond language stipulates that bond proceeds cannot be used to boost the salaries and benefits of teachers, administrators and other school employees, the reality is district monies are fungible. If the bond passes, monies that would otherwise be appropriated for capital expenditures can be shifted into employees’ salaries and benefits – by far the biggest consumers of district revenues.
If experience is any guide, the campaign for pass the bond will be funded by the school employees unions and businesses that do business with the AUHSD. district vendors. During recent school bond campaigns in districts like Garden Grove Unified, the campaign reports of the pro-school bond campaign committees read like lists of existing district contractors, vendors, plus businesses that stand to make money on construction.
This $398 million school bond comes just six years after AUSHD voters approved Measure H, a $249 million school bond (although once interest is included, the cost of Measure H is more like half-a-billion). In fact, the language of the two school bond initiatives is virtually identical – AUHSD officials tweaked a few words and changed the dollar amount from $249,000,000 to $398,000,000.
At the time of Measure H’s passage in 2014, the AUHSD was saddled with more than $95 million in debt from Measure Z, the mismanaged $132,000,000 school bond passed in in 2002.