The Maxwell Smart Strategy for Approving School Bonds

One of the regular go to jokes on the old Get Smart show was when Don Adams, after being caught redhanded in a baldfaced lie, would follow up with “Would you believe…” while trying to walk back the lie to something the listener might accept.

Well, it turns out that this is exactly how school bond measures get drafted and, ultimately, passed.

The Fullerton School District has recently commissioned a Baseline Bond feasibility survey from True North Research (available here) and they have been calling residents to feel out their receptiveness to a $198 milion bond measure that, by their own admission, will increase property taxes by at least another $93 per year. What is interesting about the survey is not that the School District wants more money and isn’t shy about raising taxes to do it (they wouldn’t be a government agency otherwise) but that it is designed to determine what promises need to be made to get it. Hence the reason why the question about removing “dangerous asbestos” was included, even though A) asbestos is generally more dangerous when it is removed and B) the City of Fullerton supposedly removed the asbestos from their classrooms thirty five years ago according to this article in the LA Times archive.

The results of the Baseline Survey will be presented to the Fullerton School Board at their next meeting on Tuesday, August 13, 2019. The bond measure, if when it is ultimately approved by the School Board to go on the ballot will likely be drafted based on which spending priorities polled best, and for an amount that does not exceed the comfort level the polled residents expressed.

Of course the problem arises when the promises needed to pass a bond measure conflict with the what the school district wants to actually use the money in question for. And if the Fullerton School District is anything like the North Orange County Community College District or most other school districts, the solution is simple – spend it on what you wanted to anyway, and to hell with your promises.

Would you believe $500 million for a brand new state of the art Veteran’s Center? How about a couple busted laptops and a new football stadium?

I take no joy in calling out the Fullerton School District here. Unlike the City’s roads (which are a pothole strewn laughingstock), our schools are among the best in Orange County and a key reason many of us chose to live here (myself included). But well run or not, our schools suffer the same problems endemic to government – excess allocation to pay and benefits at the expense of infrastructure, administrative bloat and employee protections that make it too costly to fire bad employees – and until these problems are addressed bond measures designed to paper over the financial shortfalls will be a steady fixture at the ballot box. Along with a steady stream of promises nobody intends to fulfill.


16 Replies to “The Maxwell Smart Strategy for Approving School Bonds”

    1. it depends how its worded on the ballot.
      I believe the deceptive title on the gas tax repeal initiative caused the repeal initiative to fail…. the ballot begins with: “Eliminates certain road repair and transportation funding.” Proponents say that doesn’t convey quickly enough its mission, which is why they titled it a “Gas Tax Repeal Initiative” in large letters on their mailer.

  1. Complaining will get you nowhere. The ballot statement is key and it violates the law. Most voters, including the author, probably don’t realize this. It would be very hard to pass any tax if the ballot measure complied with the law, so it doesn’t. See the web site.

    There are twelve election contests that have been filed around the state to set aside elections under the current (new) law. It’s up to the people in the district to do something about it. Or not.

    Using public moneys to pay for a survey used in a campaign is a felony according to AG Kamala Harris 2016 opinion.

    The next step is up to you.

  2. Well to clarify, I’m not saying I believe the District will use the polling data to draft the bond measure. I’m saying I believe they’ll use the data to craft the advertising campaign to get the bond measure passed.

  3. You’re not quite getting it. They’ve already tested the ballot question in the poll. The ballot question has no bearing on what’s in the measure which will be written by the bond counsel, in exchange for a contract for the bond disclosure business, to be so vague as to allow the board to use the money for anything it wishes.

    “In order to:
    . Repair aging classrooms and facilities at Fullerton elementary and middlerr
    schools including deteriorating roofs, plumbing, and electrical systems
    . Improve student safety and security
    . And upgrade, acquire, construct, and equip classrooms, labs, libraries, and
    facilities to support student achievement in science, math, arts, and technology
    Shall the Fullerton_School_District measure authorizing $198 million in bonds at legal
    rates, levying 3 cents per $100 assessed value ($11 million annually) while bonds are
    outstanding, be adopted, with citizen oversight and all money staying local?”

    Then Neal Kelley (Registrar) will illegally add a catchy title to the ballot to favor a “Yes” vote. Ex. “Fullerton School District Safety and Repair Bond”

    1. Deal with the out of control highschool campuses drug problem should be high on that list there too. Improving security by keeping all the drug dealers off campus should be added as well…. but, let’s not start getting all crazy and addressing all the things FUHS school district and all the administrators need to deal with but don’t.

  4. Second year Fullerton elementary parent, tenth year as a teacher. My son’s school according to the admin, the school was designed for 300 something kids, but there are 600 or more enrolled. Parking and pick up/drop off are packed and dangerous. I’ll assume it’s probably over crowded. Maybe spend money on building more schools.

    1. There was another elementary school – Ford School – that was demolished (in the early 80s, I think) because there weren’t enough kids. Now it’s a park, the historic WPA building razed.

  5. What about the incomplete projects they have already spent millions on?? Shotty, cheap and fast. Supposedly polished concrete in a million dollar couldn’t spend $300 on flooring..I’ll be posting pics of unfinished where all our money is wasted.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *