A $110-million Burbank Unified bond extension will be placed on the March 5 ballot — a move that was necessary to comply with state law, but one that had school board members worried about getting out the vote.
Since state law requires tax-related measures be put on ballots with polling stations, school board members on Thursday were precluded from picking Burbank’s all mail-in ballot elections for citywide races on February 26 and April 9. That left the district with March 5 — pairing with the Los Angeles Community College District’s board election — or November 2014.
The bond needs at least 55% voter approval, and given a recent survey of city voters found 60% support, passage is promising, but only if the district can get enough Burbank residents to the polls.
The bond will bring highly needed funds to Burbank’s public schools, improving roofs, technology and plumbing among a long-running list of needs.
“We spent a lot of time and energy trying to get into the municipal ballot,” said school board President Larry Applebaum at the special meeting Thursday. “I really wanted it to be on the municipal ballot. I thought that would be the most transparent way of doing it.”
District officials hope a community campaign leading up to the election will paint the picture of the district’s needs and stoke voter participation.
Assistant Supt. Christine Statton mentioned some of the needs: air conditioners are on their last leg, nearly 500 computers are more than 10 years old and some asphalt is so out of shape, it caused a middle school student to trip and fall earlier in the week.
“It’s very hard to run a school district with all its facilities’ needs and no facilities funding,” Statton said. “There are things we desperately need. I just find myself repeating, ‘Let’s hope the bond passes.’”
But school board member Roberta Reynolds was the sole dissenter on the bond date, questioning whether there was adequate voter support to risk moving ahead with the ballot.
“We must be successful when we go out. If we don’t, we put ourselves behind,” she said. “I don’t think at this point we have enough [support] to ensure that success, and I just don’t want to gamble.”
School board member Dave Kemp referred to the 1,000 students who come from outside the district as a positive example of Burbank Unified’s success.
Without the bond on the ballot, he didn’t want to risk any Burbank residents enrolling elsewhere, he said.
“I am in full support of going forward with this,” he said. “I think time is of the essence and we are at the precipice. Let’s not go over the edge.”
-- Kelly Corrigan, Times Community News