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Campus Bonds Make Ballot

January 09, 2003|Stuart Silverstein | Times Staff Writer

A $980-million bond measure to finance campus renovations and cope with expected state funding cuts was approved by the Los Angeles Community College District on Wednesday for inclusion on the May ballot.

It would be the district's second bond proposition in just over two years. Voters, by a 67%-33% margin, approved $1.25-billion Proposition A in April2001.

Chancellor Marshall "Mark" Drummond said the new bond measure is needed to complete projects envisioned for each of the district's nine campuses in master plans drafted over the last two years.

Drummond said that when the previous bond measure was put on the ballot, officials did not foresee the overall cost of needed improvements because "we hadn't had money for new buildings in 30 years, so no one was doing planning."

District trustees approved the new bond measure by a 7-0 vote, with some citing the antiquated facilities in much of the district. "The needs are real," trustee Sylvia Scott-Hayes said.

The district, anticipating millions in state spending cuts amid California's $34.8-billion budget shortfall, also is hoping to use bond proceeds to cut its general-fund spending. For one thing, it could use bond funds to save money by paying off or refinancing current debts at lower interest rates.

The bond money might also be used to acquire property currently rented or leased by the district, with the aim of reducing operating expenses. Drummond said the district will consider buying and later reselling its downtown headquarters as a way to terminate its current $2-million-a-year lease.

Drummond said the district might be able to save $6 million to $7 million a year in spending through such maneuvers.

"In this dismal state budget environment, I'm looking for money everywhere," he said.

The bond measure is expected to appear on the ballot May 20, the scheduled date for the district's anticipated runoff election. If the four district trustees up for election in March win clear majorities, there would be no runoff in May, and the board's next possible opportunity to put the bond measure to a vote would be in November.

However, each of the district's elections over the last 10 years has led to at least one runoff vote, making another runoff likely.

Among the projects expected to be funded if the bond measure passes are a technology building and a child development center at Los Angeles Valley College, a classroom building at Los Angeles Mission College and a performing arts center and a parking garage at Los Angeles City College.

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