MADERA COUNTY — There’s a lot at stake for the foothills when citizens head to the polls on Tuesday, June 7. One of the big issues on the ballot for this primary is Measure C.
If at least 55 percent of voters mark their ballots “yes” on Measure C, the proposed bond will generate $485 million to address improvements and other needs for community colleges, including approximately $25 million expected to be spent in Oakhurst.
The State Center Community College District (SCCCD) Board of Trustees placed the local bond measure on the primary ballot in an effort to address District needs at Oakhurst Community College Center, Fresno City College, Reedley College, Clovis Community College, and Madera Community College Center, and improve its aging school facilities.
Should to bond pass, homeowner taxes will be calculated at the rate of approximately $20 per year on each $100,000 of assessed property value, according to local realtor Brad Ditton, who has long been vocal in his support of the project.
“At a minimal expense per household, this will be good for the entire area,” Ditton affirms. “What other single project in the last 30 years has the potential to generate what a new campus will? It is time for another project in town. We’ll all benefit from a new and expanded campus.”
The SCCCD, sometimes referred to as State Center, was formed in 1964 and serves about one million people including 18 unified and high school districts in more than 5,743 square miles of urban and rural territory. The total operating budget for SCCCD in 2014-15 was $190.7 million. Total district enrollment for the fall semester 2014 is noted on the website at over 44,000 students.
In the 1980s, State Center opened a satellite campus of Reedley College at Yosemite High School in Oakhurst, in order to offer students “the opportunity to receive an affordable, quality college education right in their own community.”
The college serves Oakhurst, Mariposa County, Coarsegold, North Fork and the surrounding communities. Students at the Oakhurst Center can earn an Associate Degree and most of the units required to transfer to a four-year college or university. The Oakhurst site currently has an enrollment of over 620 students.
The bond will allow the District to repair and upgrade the five campuses and its Career and Technical Center, said Interim Chancellor Dr. Bill F. Stewart. The plan is to upgrade classroom buildings, labs, and technology for the nearly 50,000 students the District serves.
One of the projects earmarked from the hoped-for funding from this bond measure is the creation of new campus in Oakhurst, including site acquisition, infrastructure development and Phase I construction of critical classrooms and labs.
In the SCCCD 2012-2025 District Wide Facilities Master Plan, the overview proposed that Oakhurst receive a new campus building that is a two-story structure on the existing campus location. Whether money goes toward expanding the existing campus location or acquiring suitable property at a new location, yet undetermined, the Oakhurst site could be the recipient some $25 million dollars from the proposed bond.
SCCCD has the oldest community college in California, with Fresno City College celebrating its centennial in 2010. Also included in the bond are state-of-the-art police and fire academies.
Bobby Kahn, SCCCD Trustee for Area 1, recommends the long view be considered in the conversation about the future of the Oakhurst Center.
“The District wants to do something to improve the campus,” says Kahn, also the Executive Director of the Madera County Economic Development Commission. “Eastern Madera County deserves it, and I believe it’s prudent to look twenty or twenty-five years to the future. In order to keep growing in the Oakhurst area, we need to have a bigger site.”
Kahn says passing a bond is the only way SCCCD can keep up with the needs of its students.
“Plus, if we do not have bond money, we do not have funds required for state matching money. Therefore, we will not be eligible for any share of State funds that may be available. That money would then go to Districts that do have bond money to use as a match. Our students lose and the community loses. The projects in the bond have been vetted over a three-year period by faculty, staff and management and have been determined as the top needs of the District.”
The bond measure includes independent annual financial and performance audits, and the eyes of a citizens oversight committee. Under state law, funds generated by the bond can only go to facilities projects, and can’t be used for any other purpose, including teacher and administrator pay, or other ongoing operating expenses.
In order to pass, the bond measure will require a “Yes” vote by at least 55 percent of the voters.