Burbank Unified looks to move ahead with school bond

Fifteen years after Burbank voters overwhelmingly passed a $112.5-million school bond, it appears they are ready for an encore.

A survey commissioned by Burbank Unified shows support for a proposed $110-million bond extension — which would fund major facility improvements — at 60%, comfortably above the 55% required.

The Burbank Teachers Assn. and the Burbank Council PTA officials have voiced their support.

Still, the timing of the measure remained undecided this week as school board members tabled a vote on whether to place it on the ballot for either the Nov. 6, Feb. 26, 2013, or April 9, 2013 election.


As proposed, the $110-million bond extension would build on the 1997 bond, increasing by $5 the current tax rate of about $42 per $100,000 of assessed value per parcel. It would qualify Burbank Unified for more than $10 million in matching funds from the state, according to the district.

Bond dollars would be spent on upgrading classrooms and alarm systems, fixing deteriorating roofs and plumbing, and replacing aging portable buildings with new classrooms, among other things.

Woven into the debate of timing are questions about whether the district would be able to mobilize an effective campaign to see the bond through in November.

Burbank Council PTA President Barbara Miller said parents recognize the need for the bond extension, but that they would prefer to see it on the ballot next year. In the coming months their energy will be invested in the so-called Munger initiative, one of two tax hike options going before voters in November, she said.


“We anticipate that we would support the passage of the local bond; however, our volunteer time has already been committed to ‘Our Children, Our Future,’” Miller said, referring to the PTA-backed campaign in support of the Munger initiative. “We just don’t feel like we can give them the same volunteer hours that we did in the 1997 campaign.”

Union President Lori Adams said teachers will be campaigning for Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative, leaving them little time to advocate for the Burbank bond.

“If it is the spring, we will have every boot on the ground,” Adams said. “That is all our focus will be. We will get every teacher, every counselor, every PTA parent out.”

But the same survey results that show voter support at 60% for a November school bond measure are less encouraging for the spring.

The rate of support drops to about 50% if the bond measure were to go before Burbank voters in April.

“Our advice to you, based on everything, is still November,” Teresa Gerringer of Tramutola Advisors, the consulting firm that conducted the survey on behalf of Burbank Unified, said at a school board meeting Thursday.

Muddling the decision is an election code that dictates when and how a Proposition 39 bond — the classification of the proposed extension in Burbank — can go before voters.

According to state law, it must be timed with a regularly scheduled state or municipal election.


The city of Burbank will host a primary election in February, and a general election in April.

However, as has been the practice in Burbank since 2005, those elections will be conducted at least in part by mail-in ballot. Wholly mail-in ballot elections are not permissible for a Proposition 39 bond, meaning that in the worst-case scenario, a vote on the Burbank bond extension might be delayed for more than a year.

Some officials expressed frustration over a potential delay. School board member Ted Bunch said he would still prefer the November date, while his colleague Dave Kemp noted that the survey numbers will be useless if the vote is delayed beyond spring 2013.

Still, others said that if the question over mail-in ballots can be resolved, they believe spring 2013 is the district’s best bet for a successful campaign.

School board President Debbie Kukta — who will soon be leaving to fulfill her interim appointment as city treasurer — said she has received a single letter in support of a November vote.

“Everybody else that we speak with, they have been very vocal — from parents, from teachers — that November is just not going to work because we don’t have the support of those key groups,” Kukta said.


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