A rendering of the recently opened mathematics and culinary building on the Long Beach City College Liberal Arts Campus. Photo courtesy of LBCC.
To repair its deteriorating facilities and improve both the technology offered to its students, as well as the number of classrooms available, the Long Beach Community College Board of Trustees voted unanimously to place a local bond measure on the June 7 primary ballot, joining a host of other ballot initiatives Long Beach residents will have a hand in approving or voting down.
The measure joins efforts from the city council—a 10-year increase in the sales tax to fund infrastructure and public safety—on the June ballot. The Long Beach City College Classroom Repair, Career Education and Student Transfer Measure seeks to generate $850 million to address the college’s needs to improve both physical and educational health of the college.
Much like the council’s ballot measure, the LBCC bond will include a citizen oversight committee that will preside over expenditures that would use money generated by the bond, should it pass. There is also language in the bond that provides for independent annual financial and performance auditors that will monitor the proper use of the funds (in theory ensuring they are used as promised). A separate line stipulating that the funds would not be used for administrators’ salaries or pensions was included in the section about the oversight committee.
Support was unanimous across the board, with members taking turns to voice the merit and need of the bond.
“Tonight we’ve heard from students, faculty, and community members who have spoken on how this bond measure will improve education and career training for our students,” said Board of Trustees President Doug Otto during the board’s meeting last night. “The college has a significant need to repair and improve our deteriorating classrooms so that we can continue to support 21st Century student needs.”
Trustee Sunny Zia backed the measure and the oversight component, requesting that items pushing for a strong local hire and veterans preference—the highest priority for voters polled by the college—be added to the bond to help keep the benefits of it in the community.
“I would like to add my name to the long list of individuals and organizations who are very supportive of us going to the voters this year to seek approval of a new construction bond for the Long Beach Community College District," Zia said. “We need to stay ahead of the curve if we are going to continue to successfully serve the ongoing and evolving needs of our students, faculty, employees, and community."
Although the college has either broken ground or completed many new structures with Measure E money in the past few years, the school says it needs the funds to improve many of the older buildings that date back to the 1950s. Funds from the measure would go toward upgrading science, technology and engineering classrooms as well as carrying out routine maintenance projects like fixing leaky roofs, repairing gas and sewer lines and improving campus security.
The school also says that expanding the number of classrooms will provide more opportunities for students to take classes they need to transfer. Last year, the school revealed that the average time it took a student to transfer from LBCC to a university was about six years.
“Long Beach City College offers local students an affordable alternative to the high cost of a college education,” said LBCC Superintendent-President Eloy Ortiz Oakley. “By improving our classrooms and facilities, we can continue to provide students with the quality education they need to succeed.”
In order for the bond measure to pass it will need to gain about 55 percent of the vote in the June 7 primary. Polling conducted in advance of the discussion last night showed the college could have an amount of support that potentially would put the bond into effect.
Over half of the 600 randomly selected participants felt that classes at the college were crowded to the point where it affected students’ ability to meet requirements to graduate or transfer. About two-thirds of the participants felt there was at least “some need” for additional funding for the district.
However, only 54 percent felt it was at least “somewhat accurate” that the district was fiscally responsible and 47 percent felt it was at least “somewhat accurate” that the college officials were honest with the public and kept their promises.
The question pertaining to the possible bond measure was broken up into three “yes” and “no” answers (definitely, probably, undecided but leaning respectively). Of those supporting the measure, 38 percent of respondents answered they would “definitely” vote yes, 22 percent said they would “probably” vote yes and 5 percent were undecided but leaning toward a yes vote.
The 65 percent figure illustrated in the presentation made to the board last night showed that the bond measure might be successful, but the undecided and probable yes voters could make that number fluctuate.