|

LA community colleges: loss of Prop. 55 could lead to empty classrooms

Poll worker Ceanne Agustin hands a voter their ballot receipt at a polling place inside Barrio Action Youth & Family Center in El Sereno on Tuesday afternoon, June 7, 2016 during the California primary election. Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Los Angeles community college officials are closely watching two measures on next month's ballot for fear that passage of one but not the other could seriously reshape their campuses.

If Proposition 55 passes, the nine-campus district – like other community colleges and public schools – would continue to receive additional funding generated by some of the state taxes created by Prop. 30 in 2012.

And if Measure CC passes, the L.A. community colleges would tap into more than $3 billion in bonds to build classrooms and renovate existing facilities.

If Prop. 55 goes down in defeat, college officials say, the L.A. community colleges could lose about $85 million incrementally in the three fiscal years: $18 million in 2017-18, $33 million in 2018-2019, and another $33 million in 2019-2020. This year's general fund budget for the L.A. Community College District is $770 million.

“We will be looking at eliminating classes, potentially eliminating jobs,” Svonkin said.

And if Proposition 55 fails and Measure CC passes, Svonkin said, voters could be faced with a huge waste. 

“What it might mean is we’ll have brand new facilities that aren’t completely utilized or filled with students,” he said.

Svonkin is making the case to voters that that they need to vote yes on Prop. 55 to get the most out of Measure CC.

“I think that argument should be taken with a huge grain of salt,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

His organization opposes Prop. 55. He said public schools and community colleges need to do a better job managing the funding increases they’ve been receiving the last few years.

“These claims of poverty, quite frankly, are wearing a little thin,” he said.

Coupal and Svonkin both say voter fatigue may set in as voters work their way through a long ballot this year. The five statewide tax and fee measures could turn voters off to continuing state taxes for eduction, Coupal said.

That worries Svonkin too, as does the fact that Measure CC, since it’s a local measure, doesn’t get top billing on the ballot in the L.A. Community College District boundaries.

“We’re almost last. CC is going to be one of the last things they vote for,” he said. So he’s recommending voters start at the end.

“Because everybody that goes into the polls pretty much knows who they’re going to vote for for President.”