Measure P pits school supporters against anti-tax activists.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
T he Monterey Peninsula Unified School District has a secret weapon in its effort to pass a $110 million bond, Measure P, on the November ballot: its students.
At Seaside High, senior class president Brianna Butler says she’s tired of crumbling buildings with classroom temperatures that can reach extremes.
“Our physics class is always hot,” she says. “It’s really hard to focus.”
Other classrooms are freezing, while a ceiling in the gym is falling down.
The weekend before the election, Butler and other Seaside students plan to join their counterparts from Monterey and Marina high schools, fanning out across the district to plead for help from voters who may not have been inside a classroom in decades.
MPUSD failed in its last attempt to pass a bond eight years ago. But polling earlier this year showed this time around, the measure—which requires 55 percent voter approval—could pass narrowly.
The Measure P campaign committee has raised nearly $33,000 as of the Oct. 5 reporting deadline, and counts heavy hitters like Congressman Sam Farr, County Supervisor Jane Parker and Panetta Institute for Public Policy Director Sylvia Panetta among its endorsers.
The bond would increase annual property taxes by about $30 for every $100,000 of assessed value.
Ron Pasquinelli of the 700-member Monterey Peninsula Taxpayers Association opposes the measure.
“They haven’t completed their homework,” he says, arguing the measure lacks accountability. He contends the district should be specific about which schools would be first in line for bond funds, and which improvements would be made: “Why not prioritize it?”
MPUSD Administrator Sharon Albert shoots back: “We’re not in a situation where we’re thinking of which marble column to put up. It’s which kids are suffering most.”
She notes that state law requires an oversight committee made up of a cross-section of the community to oversee bond spending.
That’s not good enough for Richard Ruccello, another member of the taxpayer group, who contends political pressure often prevails over good sense when it comes to bond spending.
“We passed a $150 million bond for Monterey Peninsula College,” he says. “What’s the first thing they built? A football stadium.”