The state Legislature has postponed until January a vote on a package of bills that would shift some of the financial burden of school construction back onto taxpayers and away from developers, who have increasingly footed the bill in rapidly growing communities like Santa Clarita.
The legislative package includes a bill that would allow voters to approve an $8.2-billion statewide school facility bond and a constitutional amendment that would lower the vote requirement for passage of local school bonds.
Those in favor of the legislation say that the financing of schools must be shared by the community and the developers. Those opposed argue that the developers should put some of their profits into schools.
Should taxpayers foot the bill for new school construction?
Robert C. Lee, superintendent, Hart Union High School District, Santa Clarita:
"Taxpayers absolutely should not foot the bill. New homes bring new students, which causes school districts to build new facilities. New homes are built by developers for the purpose of making money and, if one is making money, they should pay the piper, as they are required to do for sewers, roads, water systems and parks. Schools should be no different . . . The solution is that if you want to require developers to pay just a portion, shift the burden not to existing taxpayers, but to new residents that would be moving into the homes that are being built."
State Sen. William "Pete" Knight (R-Palmdale):
"Traditionally, taxpayers have paid for school construction. Recently, we have prevailed upon the developers to pay their portion of the bill caused by the need for new schools in new housing developments. When the state took over the payment of construction, the school districts relaxed. They said, 'Let the state do it.' I think we need to turn it around and get the state out of that business and get it back to the districts and let the school boards do their own construction."
State Assemblyman George Runner (R-Lancaster):
"We all have a responsibility to participate in the funding of education for the children of our state. However, we must also protect the taxpayers . . . I believe that school districts must be looking at their own operating funds when it comes to some construction and not depend solely on voter-approved bonds . . . We also need to look at ways to build schools less expensively. We should look at prevailing wage requirements and burdensome application processes to build a facility. That process wastes taxpayers' money."
Rick Simpson, legislative advocate for the California Teachers Assn.:
"In California, education is a fundamental right and our citizens have said so on numerous occasions. We don't ask newcomers to a community to pay additional fees or taxes for the cost of hiring the new teachers that school districts have to employ . . . when a development takes place. I think the primary responsibility for funding school construction falls to state and local taxpayers. What the CTA and the Legislature have proposed . . . is a partnership among the state and local taxpayers and new home buyers. We think it fairly distributes the funding responsibility among all parties."