School Construction Bond Debated in California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The decision to place a statewide school construction bond, known as Assembly Bill (AB) 2235, on the November ballot is still up for debate as Gov. Jerry Brown still has not said whether or not he will terminate the proposal before allowing Californians to vote on it.

Construction advocates said a facilities bond is necessary to keep homes (somewhat) affordable in California and would strengthen the statewide economy, according to the Sacramento Business Journal. If the bond does not pass, school districts could force developers to pay for the entire cost of building new schools, which could halt residential homebuilding and increase the cost of homes by up to $10,000.

Funding for the state’s backlog of school construction projects would directly create 8,000 jobs, according to a study released earlier this month by the California Building Industry Association. A recent study from the Center for Strategic Economic Research showed that every $1 million used towards school construction gives back $1.1 million in economic output.

The bond unanimously passed the assembly in May, totaling $9 billion. However, that dollar figure was removed when the measure reached the Senate, as both houses and the Brown administration continue to negotiate. The bill will be discussed on the Senate floor next month, and supporters are hoping the governor will share his thoughts.

Gov. Brown has made several promises as part of his reelection campaign to cut the state’s debt. He has even acknowledged that he wants the state to play less of a role in school construction financing, but his administration has also not suggested an alternative.

The existing school facility program, administered by the California Department of General Services is currently over budget by more than $800 million, and that’s for projects that the state has approved to wait in line for funding, reported the Sacramento Business Journal. However, there are several other proposed projects that have yet to be developed.

The last statewide school bond approved by California voters was in 2006. School facilities funding is separate from regular public education spending, guaranteed in the state budget.