San Mateo County colleges regroup after Measure H fails

A student walks through the quad at Skyline College. Officials say between 5 and 6 percent of San Mateo County’s residents are community college alumni. (Examiner file photo)A student walks through the quad at Skyline College. Officials say between 5 and 6 percent of San Mateo County’s residents are community college alumni. (Examiner file photo)

Officials at the San Mateo Community College District are scrambling to figure out how to pay for urgent facilities upgrades after a $564 million, seven-year bond measure failed to garner enough votes Tuesday.

Measure H, which required 55 percent of votes to pass, received only 52.7 percent of the 71,545 votes cast.

“We were very disappointed,” district spokeswoman Barbara Christensen said.

Christensen said the defeat came as a surprise because when district officials surveyed voters last summer, about 70 percent said they would vote in favor of the measure.

“I think the climate changed,” Christensen said.

The measure would have cost San Mateo County property owners an estimated $12.92 per $100,000 in assessed property value each year.

Measure H was one of several education funding propositions that school districts asked voters to approve Tuesday. A bond measure for the San Bruno Park School District also failed, and three other measures for K-12 schools passed by narrow margins.

The community college bond measure also came on the heels of a $34-per-year parcel tax to support community colleges, which voters approved by 67 percent in 2010, as well as community college bond measures totaling $675 million in 2001 and 2005.

But Christensen said that this year’s measure was badly needed in order to upgrade decades-old facilities at the county’s three campuses and accommodate ballooning demand for science and technology courses.

“When you have to modernize these big buildings, with all the technology, the only way you can do it is with a bond,” Christensen said.

Christensen said university officials met Thursday to discuss how they might still pay for some of the renovations. The district will likely rely more heavily on its foundation, she said, and it might attempt to pass another bond in the future.

Stefani Scott, executive director of the San Mateo County Community Colleges Foundation, said her staff was already working harder to raise private funds for the colleges in light of recent state budget cuts.

Foundation officials were trying to increase their pool of donors by contacting alumni, who Scott said make up between 5 and 6 percent of the county’s population.

“It’s fun reaching out to alumni and finding how much their experience here meant to them,” she said.


What the measure would have brought

College of San Mateo

-Remodel buildings for science and emerging technology

-Replace 60-year-old facilities maintenance building

-Modernize library and 56-year-old gym


Cañada College

-New science, allied health and workforce development building

-Modernization of four buildings that date to 1969


Skyline College

-Upgrade social science and creative arts building that dates to 1968

-Modernize library

– Modernize student services building

Source: San Mateo Community College District

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