The Coast Community College District has put a $698-million bond measure on the November ballot to support facility rehabilitation and construction.
Measure M would help the district improve access for people with disabilities; install and repair safety and security equipment; fix leaking roofs and decaying walls; remove asbestos; expand courses in science, technology, engineering and math; upgrade and construct classrooms, laboratories and job training facilities; and improve educational resources for active military and veterans.
The bond money could not be used for teacher or administrator salaries and pensions, or go to Sacramento, according to the measure.
A Citizens' Oversight Committee, which would include a representative from a taxpayers association, and business and senior citizens organizations, would oversee spending if the measure passes.
Property owners would repay the bonds and interest through taxes levied on the assessed value of their taxable property.
The district, which serves Orange Coast, Golden West and Coastline Community colleges, estimates that tax at $17.97 for every $100,000, according to the measure.
District board of trustees President Jim Moreno said the bond measure would prepare the colleges for the influx of veterans and students who normally would have attended a University of California or California State University.
The priority is students, not buildings, but "the problem is you have to have safe buildings, and my job as trustee and board president is to keep the doors open and the lights on, and it's been a struggle," Moreno said.
Huntington Beach City Councilman Matthew Harper, who has come out against Measure M, argued that voters in 2002 approved a $370-million bond measure for which they are still paying.
Harper said the idea the district didn't have money to make repairs and renovations with the first bond measure is laughable.
"It's incredible that after having such a large bond measure approved, that they would come and ask for an additional bond for an amount that will amount to $1 billion," Harper said. "This second bite out of the apple is so out of touch with what is happening in the economy right now."
The 2002 measure financed facility and infrastructure improvements at the three colleges, including construction of Coastline's Le Jao Center in Westminster; OCC's Watson Hall, Fitness Center and library; Golden West College's Health Sciences and Student Health Services Building; and renovations to the district administrative offices.
For the amount of money the district is asking for, the community should be seeing a new college, Harper said.
Moreno called opposition to the measure unrealistic and without an understanding of the education system. The district is struggling to keep students in classes with ongoing budget cuts and hasn't had extra funds to put into infrastructure, he said.
The state cut about $20 million from the district over the last two years.
The district was responsible and transparent with its handling of the 2002 bond money, Ed Fawcett, the president and chief executive of the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce, wrote in an email.
"Reinvesting in our community colleges, upgrading career and vocational facilities and equipment improves the real and perceived value of the cities served by these campuses," he wrote. "In so doing, property values will be enhanced and the students served will be better prepared for well-paying jobs. Measure M is an investment in our colleges, our students and veterans and in our communities."