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Smart Voter
San Francisco County, CA November 8, 2011 Election
Proposition A
School Bonds
City and County of San Francisco

General Obligation Bonds - 55% Approval Required

Pass: 134751 / 71.11% Yes votes ...... 54754 / 28.89% No votes

See Also: Index of all Propositions

Information shown below: Summary | Fiscal Impact | Arguments |

Shall San Francisco Unified School District repair and rehabilitate facilities to current accessibility, health, safety and instructional standards, replace worn-out plumbing, electrical and other major building systems, replace aging heating, ventilation and air handling systems, renovate outdated classrooms and training facilities, construct facilities to replace aging modular classrooms, by issuing bonds in an amount not to exceed $531,000,000, at legal interest rates, with guaranteed annual audits, citizens' oversight and no money for school administrators' salaries?

Summary Prepared by San Francisco Department of Elections:
Proposition A would authorize the School District to borrow up to $531 million by issuing general obligation bonds. These funds would be used to repair and upgrade more than 50 school facilities to:

  • address health and safety risks by fixing damaged items and removing hazardous materials;
  • repair and replace major building systems, including electrical, heating, water, sewer, lighting,security, and fire sprinkler systems;
  • improve accessibility for people with disabilities;
  • repair and build playgrounds and fields;
  • make necessary seismic upgrades;
  • replace temporary classroom facilities with permanent structures, if determined to be more practical than repairing them;
  • replace an existing facility with a new facility, if determined to be more practical than repairing it; and
  • perform other work necessary to comply with any applicable codes or regulations.

The School District would set aside up to $5 million of the funds to create outdoor learning environments and up to $5 million to implement the use of environmentally sustainable materials and products. It also would set aside up to $1.5 million for future bond planning and for communication with all groups affected by the projects funded by this bond measure. The School District would create an independent citizens' oversight committee to report to the public about the use of bond funds. The School District's Board of Education would also conduct annual, independent audits.

The School District would not be allowed to use bond funds to pay for teacher and administrator salaries or operating expenses.

Proposition A would allow for an increase in the property tax, if needed, to pay principal and interest on the bonds. This measure requires the approval of 55% of the votes cast.

Fiscal Impact from San Francisco Controller:
City Controller Ben Rosenfield has issued the following statement on the fiscal impact of Proposition A: Should the proposed $531 million in bonds be authorized and sold under current assumptions, the approximate costs will be as follows:

  • In fiscal year 2012+2013, following issuance of the first series of bonds, and the year with the lowest tax rate, the estimated annual costs of debt service would be $9.1 million and result in a property tax rate of $0.00669 per $100 ($6.69 per $100,000) of assessed valuation.
  • In fiscal year 2016+2017, following issuance of the last series of bonds, and the year with the highest tax rate, the estimated annual costs of debt service would be $46.7 million and result in a property tax rate of $0.02942 per $100 ($29.42 per $100,000) of assessed valuation.
  • The best estimate of the average tax rate for these bonds from fiscal year 2012+2013 through 2035+ 2036 is $0.02139 per $100 ($21.39 per $100,000) of assessed valuation.
  • Based on these estimates, the highest estimated annual property tax cost for these bonds for the owner of a home with an assessed value of $500,000 would be approximately $145.00 These estimates are based on projections only, which are not binding upon the City. Projections and estimates may vary due to the timing of bond sales, the amount of bonds sold at each sale, and actual assessed valuation over the term of repayment of the bonds. Hence, the actual tax rate and the years in which such rates are applicable may vary from those estimated above. The City's current debt management policy is to issue new general obligation bonds only as old ones are retired, keeping the property tax impact from general obligation bonds approximately the same over time.

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Arguments For Proposition A Arguments Against Proposition A
We can all agree that our public schools need better and safer buildings and more up-to-date technology to educate our kids. San Francisco schools serve nearly 60,000 students in some of the oldest buildings in the State. Many of these buildings desperately need to be modernized to 21st century safety code and accessibility standards.

Twice over the past eight years, San Franciscans have recognized that our schools were in need of upgrades and overwhelmingly voted to support bonds to modernize schools. The District has delivered on its promise. Thirty school facilities were modernized through the 2003 bond and 59 school facilities are being completed through the 2006 bond. Proposition A is the third and final measure to modernize all San Francisco public schools--completing a long-term plan to improve schools throughout the city. At a time of deep state budget cuts for our schools, voting YES on Prop A will provide the funding necessary to modernize, upgrade, and increase accessibility at an additional 53 school facilities. This will include seismic upgrades, safe removal of any hazardous substances, improved disabled access, and replacement of worn-out electrical, plumbing, and fire safety systems--as well as upgrading classrooms and science labs to improve student achievement. The bond program is being rigorously run by a professional management team, and since its development,construction has stayed on schedule and on budget.

The District has kept its promise to manage past bond monies responsibly under the guidance of the independent Citizens' Bond Oversight Committee, and the annual audits found that we have met or exceeded all requirements and are in excellent financial standing.

This is a critical step to ensure that ALL our children have safe, healthy, attractive, and universally accessible environments to learn and thrive.

Please join us in supporting Proposition A.

San Francisco Board of Education

Rebuttal to Arguments For
Isn't it funny how there's always money in the budget for administrators' six-figure salaries and generous benefits, while maintenance is regularly deferred to blackmail voters into approving bond measures lest children be stuck in decrepit schools?

Bonds are for major expenses like constructing new school buildings. That isn't needed now. Enrollment is declining as families leave San Francisco or choose home schooling or non-government schools due to SFUSD's failure to meet their children's needs. Instead, district officials again propose borrowing money for routine maintenance their annual operating budget is supposed to cover.

As long as San Francisco has government-run schools, keeping them repaired will cost taxpayers. But regularly borrowing money for repairs is stupid. By the time you add in bond finance costs, sales commissions, attorney fees, transfer fees, and up to 12% interest, SFUSD's plan to raise $531,000,000 in revenue could end up costing nearly $1,000,000,000!

That would be bad enough if we could trust the money would be spent wisely -- but we can't. Money from previous bonds was spent repairing schools like Treasure Island Elementary that were closed shortly thereafter. Total lack of foresight and planning!

They're calling this the "third and final" measure to modernize district schools. Don't believe it. Prop. A includes "$1,500,000 in bond funds to be used for future bond planning as well as outreach and communication" (read: polling and public relations).

Send them a message to stop wasting your money like this! Vote NO on A.

Libertarian Party of San Francisco

We agree that the schools should be in good condition and that the facilities should be safe and completely functional, but is this expensive bond measure the most prudent way to pay for such repairs and upgrades? We don't think so.

A better and more economical way to accomplish this goal is the sale of unused government buildings. In 2007 the San Francisco Unified School District acknowledged that around 20% of its real estate holdings had almost no educational value. It also designated ten vacant or underutilized properties as surplus and concluded that selling them would yield an estimated $134 million plus millions more in property taxes.

So what has the school district done to act on its own findings? Nothing. Not one property has been sold. What benefit is there to anyone to own empty buildings,especially in a time when repairs and upgrades are needed?

Furthermore, another idea that has hardly been explored is to lease out the empty buildings to generate revenue for the school district. The former Newcomer High School in Pacific Heights is now being leased out to a Montessori school and a nonprofit organization, and these tenants are generating actual revenue for the school district. Why isn't the school district doing more of this type of leasing?

Until such time that the school district makes better use of the millions of dollars of property that it is holding and not utilizing, we recommend a No vote on this very expensive bond measure (over half a billion dollars with an interest rate of up to 12%).

Libertarian Party of San Francisco

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