California school officials and other supporters of last November’s Proposition 51 are growing impatient that, more than nine months after voters approved the $9 billion school-construction measure, the state has not sold any of the authorized bonds.
They say hundreds of projects to remodel and build schools are waiting for the money.
The Treasurer’s Office on Tuesday is scheduled to sell about $446 million in Proposition 51 bonds. The money would provide state matching funds for 143 projects that had cleared the approval process as of July 24.
But school officials and other bond backers, who spent almost $13 million in the campaign to pass Proposition 51, say the need is much greater. School districts’ pending new construction and modernization requests total more than $2.4 billion, backers say, and include new elementary schools in Elk Grove Unified School District and new classrooms at Rocklin Unified’s Granite Oaks Middle School.
“There really is no excuse for us to find ourselves in the position we’re in today,” said former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo. “At this pace it could take up to 10 years to fully commit Proposition 51 funds.
“This is not what the voters intended when they passed Proposition 51,” added Buchanan, saying constructions costs will only increase, reducing the bond’s purchasing power.
Fifty-five percent of voters approved Proposition 51, which passed in two-thirds of cities and 32 of the state’s 58 counties.
Yet the measure faced a powerful skeptic in Gov. Jerry Brown, who said it left intact an inefficient school-construction program. When he released his January budget proposal, the Democratic governor demanded more rigorous auditing procedures.
Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said the upcoming Proposition 51 bond sale is large enough to cover projects that have cleared the approval process. Other projects in line for state matching money still await various reviews, he said.
“You don’t sell a bond until you actually need the cash for that phase of construction,” Palmer said.
Bond sales typically happen twice a year, in the spring and fall. Proposition 51 also is scheduled to be part of a spring 2018 sale, Palmer said, with the exact amount still undetermined.
Now that home construction is on the upswing, builders are finding they can’t keep up with demand because they lack skilled laborers.
Editor’s note: This post was updated at 9:05 a.m. Aug. 25, 2017 to clarify that the new construction at Granite Oaks Middle School is for new classrooms.