The Long Beach Community College District is considering whether to put a $990 million bond measure in front of voters in November 2024, an idea the college’s board of trustees shied away from in 2022 as economic concerns like inflation hampered community support.
Board members decided against asking voters to approve a $285 million bond measure in 2022, but multiple members voiced support for placing a much larger bond on the 2024 ballot after a survey reportedly showed there’s now a higher level of community support.
“We’re delighted to inform you that a high-impact 2024 bond is potentially viable in November of 2024,” said Catherine Lew, one of the consultants hired by the college to explore the bond measure.
Sample ballot language presented to the board Wednesday said the funding could go toward upgrading outdated classrooms, installing new security features at both Long Beach Community College campuses, improving earthquake safety and building affordable student housing.
Polling showed the measure likely wouldn’t pass if it went to voters in March 2024, but it could be successful in the higher-turnout November election. About 62% of people likely to vote in November showed some level of support, according to the survey results shown to the board. The measure would need 55% approval to pass.
“I trust the data and the findings. However, a part of me almost feels like the interpretation underestimates the love, affection and support that the public has for LBCC,” Trustee Vivian Malauulu said Wednesday. “Everyone I’ve spoken to about this for the past couple of years is very supportive of the projects we’re considering.”
The bonds could raise property taxes within the district, which includes Long Beach, Signal Hill, Avalon and Lakewood, by $25 for every $100,000 of assessed value.
Survey results found that support for the bonds grew by about 3% (65%) when the effect on property taxes was phrased differently, using 25 cents for every $1,000 of assessed value as opposed to the larger figures.
Adding “Long Beach City College” to the ballot language next to the district’s formal title also made a difference. “LBCC” polled better than “LBCCD.”
While survey respondents showed support for the bonds, they could still face real-world obstacles like inflation and the cost of living in the city.
Respondents supported the college’s desire to improve facilities and potentially build affordable student housing—something it is looking to do in North Long Beach and at its Liberal Arts Campus—but potentially investing in Veterans Stadium was the lowest priority, according to the survey.
A rebuild of the stadium was at the heart of the 2022 proposal, with college officials saying the 73-year-old structure had seismic issues requiring its demolition.
Just 46% of respondents said it was “very” or “extremely” important, an 11% drop from a similar survey conducted before the board decided against pursuing the 2022 bond measure.
The stadium was not listed in the sample ballot language presented Wednesday but “earthquake safety” was. It’s unclear if the stadium would be part of the bonds if the board moves forward.
Support for the bonds could also be vulnerable to arguments against their passage, according to the survey, with initial support dropping from 65% to 56% after opposition statements.
The board was advised by consultants to use the next year to do community outreach in an effort to “build consensus” among voters. The board would have to vote by the first week of August 2024 on whether to put the issue on the November ballot.
The district still has some money left over from prior bond measures. Since 2008, they’ve received nearly $1.3 billion, with $89 million earmarked for Veterans Stadium remaining unspent.