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Guest Column: Say

Author: Jeff Kunde and Dr. Frank Chong
November, 2014 Issue

The state of California doesn’t provide local community colleges any dedicated funding to maintain, upgrade or expand facilities.

 
Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) is a vital community resource and must stay current. Now is the time to invest in SRJC so we can better prepare students to attend four-year universities and to succeed in 21st century careers. Putting off upgrades to facilities and technology means greater expenses down the road and does a disservice to our students, workforce and business community.
 
Half of all local high school graduates rely on SRJC for affordable higher education right here in Sonoma County. As the cost of attending a university in California has skyrocketed, more students are relying on community colleges for some or all of their education. Measure H will help provide local high school graduates access to high-quality, affordable college options and will help train our future workforce.
 
The state of California doesn’t provide local community colleges any dedicated funding to maintain, upgrade or expand facilities, including classrooms, labs and instructional technology. A local bond measure is the only way to fund these vital improvements.
 
Today, as our beloved and well-used local college nears 100 years old, Measure H is essential to increase capacity, allowing greater access to students seeking higher education, and to tackle repairs and upgrades to deteriorating classrooms and buildings that have served our community for decades.
 
The average age of buildings on the Santa Rosa campus is 41 years. Shuhaw Hall (engineering, physics, math) is 59 years old, Bech Hall (chemistry) is 47 years old and Barnett Hall (general education) is 56 years old. If we don't pass Measure H, problems related to the adequacy of lab and classroom space, as well as deteriorated or nonexistent infrastructure systems, will get worse and more expensive to fix.
 
The Petaluma campus, while substantially newer, also requires expansions and upgrades. Additional labs and classrooms will provide increased access to much-needed classes as well as enhancements to original infrastructure systems.
 
SRJC’s Public Safety Training Center in Windsor is home to highly respected regional fire and law enforcement training programs. Yet classroom and lab space there cannot meet student demand.
 
SRJC also needs critical upgrades to vocational and instructional technology. The world—and Sonoma County—has changed tremendously since Measure A was passed 12 years ago. Measure H will fund new classrooms, labs and technology needed to help prepare students for four-year colleges and rewarding careers in public safety, health care and nursing, manufacturing, engineering, science, information technology, mechanics, agriculture and many others.
 
The number of veterans who attend SRJC has grown dramatically in recent years, from 125 in 2005 to 770 as of spring 2014. Measure H would fund the expansion of our Veterans Office by 100 percent.
 
In the 2012 to 2013 academic year, 55 percent of SRJC applicants to the University of California were accepted, significantly higher than the statewide average of 46 percent. SRJC students who complete our career and technical education programs earn an average 41 percent more upon entering the workforce than those who haven’t completed such programs.
 
Sonoma County voters passed Measure A, the only previous bond in SRJC’s 96-year history, with almost 70 percent support. The independent citizens’ oversight committee and annual public audits show that Measure A funds were used prudently to repair aging SRJC classrooms and buildings and expand educational access. Completed projects include Doyle Library, Plover Hall, Petaluma Campus expansion, Bertolini Student Center, Burdo Culinary Center, technology upgrades and network infrastructure improvements.
 
A recent refinancing implemented by SRJC saved taxpayers millions and reduced tax rates by more than 15 percent. Measure A was a terrific success—even receiving an award from the Sonoma County Taxpayers Association.
 
Bonds contribute to the economic vitality of the local community. Measure A spent $166.5 million in Sonoma County in the last 12 years. For every dollar invested in a community college, the return to the local economy is $6.80. And for every dollar that federal, state and local taxpayers spent on America’s community colleges in 2012, society as a whole will receive a cumulative value of $25.90 in benefits.
 
This measure to modernize and upgrade SRJC facilities will cost no more than $25 per $100,000 of assessed (not market) value of local property. Assessed home values are generally based on the original purchase price, so the typical local homeowner would pay just $67 per year, less than $6 per month.
 
Measure H has tough accountability requirements to protect taxpayers. All the funds generated as a result of this measure will be spent to improve SRJC—not one penny can be taken by the state government, and Sacramento politicians will have no say in how these funds are used. Annual financial audit and independent citizen oversight will ensure funds are used as promised.
 
That’s why people from all walks of life, including leaders in business, agriculture, health care and K-12 education, are rallying behind Measure H. Join us in voting Yes on H to upgrade SRJC and enhance local access to higher education. For more information about Measure H, visit www.FriendsofSRJC.org.
 
 
 
Jeff Kunde is president of the Santa Rosa Junior College Board of Trustees. Dr. Frank Chong is superintendent and president of Santa Rosa Junior College.

 

 

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