Pasadena School Board Halts Efforts on $850M Bond Measure for March Ballot, For Now

Board will instead aim for getting Measure GO on November 2020 election ballot

Published : Friday, November 22, 2019 | 5:41 AM

Inset at left above, Laura Olhasso, government affairs director for the Pasadena-Foothills Association of Realtors, argued against the bond resolution. Meanwhile PUSD Facilities Chief Nelson Cayabyab, inset right, laid out expansive and ambitious plans for bond funding at the PUSD Board of Education November 21, 2019 meeting. Screenshots courtesy of KLRN

Stopping an $850 million bond measure in its tracks, the Pasadena School Board Thursday voted unanimously to table, or set aside, efforts to prepare Bond Measure GO, for the March 2020 municipal ballot.

The board will instead set its sights on the November 2020 ballot, which would mean preparing the bond measure by an August 6, 2020 deadline.

“This is really troubling,” said Pasadena Unified Board President Lawrence Torres, “but we are just not ready yet.”

The District has begun receiving funds—approximately $7 million a year—from last year’s Measure J city sales tax, but much of that money has been used to shore up PUSD account reserves, as ordered by the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

PUSD Chief Facilities Officer Nelson Cayabyab had laid out for the Board an expansive and ambitious plan for dramatic rehabilitative and construction efforts at all 28 PUSD campuses, including low-income housing for shuttered campuses, solar energy upgrades, smart classrooms, improved campus security measures, and even a new athletic stadium at Pasadena High School.

As President Torres described the decision, “We wanted to weigh in as to whether this was appropriate, but this conversation was important, nonetheless.”

Hammering on a theme he has pressed in previous meetings, Board Member Patrick Cahalan said, “I want ongoing general budget money before I want this [bond].”

Cahalan also added that, in speaking to members of the PUSD community, he felt that “people are not happy with the outreach done on this so far.”

Despite being unwilling to move the ballot measure forward yet, Cahalan told the Board, “We are always trying to convince people that we need more money, but I want to change that question to, ‘Why aren’t you better funded?’”

A number of community members spoke out against the proposed measure.

“This is of great concern to us,” said Laura Olhasso, government affairs director for the Pasadena-Foothills Association of Realtors. “There has been no outreach. There has been no community input. There has been no prioritization. Don’t set yourself up for failure.”

Ross Selvidge, former Pasadena City College Trustee, told the Board that they were in danger of losing goodwill from the community should they move ahead with the bond measure.

“This would create the largest property tax measure ever in the history of the cities of Pasadena, Altadena, and Sierra Madre,” said Selvidge, who added that he would be paying $500 more a year in taxes if the bond measure was passed.

Board Superintendent Dr. Brian McDonald told the Board that PUSD staff will return to the board at a later date with a plan of action for the November 2020 Federal elections.

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