LBUSD will ask voters to approve $1.7 billion bond measure in November

In a unanimous vote Monday evening, the Long Beach Unified School District’s Board of Education voted to place a $1.7 billion bond measure on the November ballot. If voters approve it, the bond money would be used to modernize campuses, add enhanced safety measures, upgrade aging technology and provide new green spaces.

“It’s really to address the needs we’ve identified with our new Facilities Master Plan,” said David Miranda, the LBUSD Executive Director of Facilities Development. “We have $3.5 to $3.8 billion in needs for green spaces on campus, additional spaces for career tech, and touching on equity with facility needs.”

Miranda pointed out that basic repairs are needed as well, with more than 80% of the district’s campuses over 50 years old and an average campus age of 67 years.

This is the third time in the last 15 years that the district has asked voters to approve a bond measure. The measure will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot and will require 55% of voters to approve it in order to pass.

The bonds would be repaid through higher property taxes, with an increase of six cents per $100 of valuation on properties within the school district’s borders. On a home assessed at a million dollars, that would come to $600 annually.

Long Beach has a long history of approving bond measures for its schools. In 2008, 71% of voters approved the $1.2 billion Measure K bond for the district, which modernized facilities on some campuses and also created new smaller schools including McBride High, Sato Academy and Browning High. In 2016, 74% of voters approved the $1.5 billion Measure E bond, which has funded HVAC installation across the district (currently in process) as well as new turf fields and stadiums at several schools.

“There’s still quite a bit we’re doing right now with respect to Measure E projects,” said Miranda. “We have funding in place to complete those projects and fulfill the desire of the voters who helped us pass that bond effort.”

It’s unclear what voters’ appetite will be for a third bond measure. Last week, Long Beach City College opted not to put a bond on the 2022 ballot, with a consultant saying it wasn’t a “viable option” to ask voters for approval this year because of high inflation and other difficult economic indicators. Nevertheless, the LBUSD said that a recent phone survey showed that “nearly seven in 10 local voters” believe the district needs additional funding to modernize its campuses.

Board member Doug Otto acknowledged the higher degree of difficulty in passing a bond measure when times are tight.

“It’s particularly important right now because we’re not in the best of economic times,” he said. “It’s very important that all of us who believe in this measure get the word out that it’s needed—that if we want to continue to do the work we do we have to do it.”

“This community, Long Beach, Lakewood, Signal Hill, Avalon have stepped up time and time again to support students,” said board member Megan Kerr. “Long Beach is a special place; we take care of each other.”

It was not a surprise that the item was approved—many homes in Long Beach received mailers over the weekend in support of the bond measure.

Per the district, all funds from the bond would be used for campus improvements, and would not be allowed to be used for salaries; the state would also not be allowed to take any of the money for projects outside of the city.

Board appoints Kerr as president

The board underwent its annual reorganization at Monday’s meeting, with Megan Kerr unanimously elected president, and Diana Craighead elected vice president. Outgoing board president Juan Benitez closed his tenure by saying it’s been “an honor, a privilege, and a huge responsibility to … uphold, represent, and advance our community’s vision for what public schools can be and should be.”

Kerr praised Benitez for his leadership over the last 12 months.

“It’s been a heck of a year to chair meetings,” she said. “We’ve had record public comment—you’ve handled it with grace and candor and moved our community through some meetings that were really difficult.”

Board member Erik Miller nominated Kerr for the position, which she has previously held, and the motion was passed unanimously. Miller then nominated Doug Otto for vice president, but Otto declined. Benitez nominated Craighead for the vice president position, and after she accepted the nomination, she was also unanimously approved.

Board approves facilities Master Plan

The board unanimously approved the nearly 500-page Facilities Master Plan that was used to formulate needed costs for modernizing its campuses. The plan can be read in its entirety here and the appendices, which include an analysis of each campus can be read here.

Miranda said that more than 600 community members provided input as part of the master plan process.

The next LBUSD Board of Education meeting will be Wednesday, Aug. 17.

Students fought for green schools; now they’re on the verge of changing LBUSD policy

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