School bond in question

Burbank Leader

City Councilman David Gordon on Tuesday called on school district officials to provide a complete financial account of a voter-approved $112.5-million bond to modernize Burbank Unified facilities.

The city has agreed to jointly fund at least $14 million for field-improvement projects that may have been eligible for the bond money. In a letter Tuesday to the Board of Education, Gordon requested records detailing how the bond, approved in 1997, was spent and on which projects between 1997 and 2005.

The documents should show how previous school boards used the money for rehabilitation and restoration of the school fields, Gordon said.

"The basis of the city providing millions in funds was that the school did not have any money available to do the projects," Gordon said. "The documents I am requesting will confirm whether or not that's so."

Gordon last week said that an unidentified source approached him and said the bond money may have been mishandled.

"The way I understand it is someone told him that money was set aside for the fields, and that we don't need the city's money," school board member Dave Kemp said. "That's not true. I don't think he will find anything we did was wrong."

Included in Gordon's request was a copy of the district's facilities master plan, which he said lists which projects were to be funded based on an extensive assessment.

School board President Roberta Reynolds said the district is cooperating with the request, which surfaced last week before the council was presented with an update on the field rehabilitation at John Burroughs High School. Reynolds added that district officials were aware of Gordon's request before he sent the letter, and are working to compile the information.

"I think he's entitled to everything he asked for because they're all public documents," Kemp said. "But I think he's demanding things at a speed where it's impossible to get them to him quick enough."

Burbank Unified School District Measure B97 passed with more than 71% of the vote in 1997.

The general obligation bond was to be used to modernize classrooms and school facilities, and not for administrator and teacher salaries.

All expenditures were to be monitored by a community oversight committee. But in 2005, eight years after presiding over roughly $84.5 million in bond spending, the committee members demanded that the school board clarify its responsibilities, complaining that they were often unable to carry out their obligations because of a lack of information from the district.

"I think people were thinking they should have more of a hand in it — other than oversight," said Kemp, who has been on the school board since 2003.

"They wanted to have more decision-making authority."

The school board that month approved new guidelines that made it a priority to disseminate critical information to the commission, and enabled commissioners to review expenditures that weren't solely funded by bond money.

School board member Larry Applebaum at the time said commissioners couldn't do their jobs if they weren't getting the information they needed.

"I think we've struck a balance with these new guidelines," he said.

Construction problems ranged from boilers left in school basements with no way to connect them, flooding in the John Burroughs High School gym, and a gym at Burbank High that allowed dust from the track to blow into the building.

Related Story "Stadium still standing," A14

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