OC Political

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Posts Tagged ‘Clark Hampton’

California Voters Will Confront Hundreds Of Costly Bonds This Year – My Guest Commentary in the OC Register

Posted by Craig P Alexander on February 8, 2020

On February 1, 2020 the Orange County Register published this guest commentary by me in its Opinion section.  I thank the OC Register for publishing my commentary:

California voters will confront a Vesuvius of public school bond measures on the March 3, 2020 — nine of them in Orange County. In South Orange County, the Capistrano Unified School District is pushing two bonds (Measures H and I). If passed, both would obligate CUSD voters to pay $724 million in principal and interest — on top of all of the other taxes and bonds locals already pay.

Bonds are a tax. Just as homebuyers use mortgages to borrow money, governments borrow money, and repay lenders the loan amount (the principal) plus interest, often over the course of 30 years. Few ever talk about interest payments when they talk about bonds — and those interest payments can double the announced cost of the bond, sucking up money for other essential government services.

Voters throughout the state need to ask themselves whether these bonds are truly necessary and urgent, or yet another bailout for bad financial management of the state’s schools.

I’d argue it’s clearly the latter. Our problem isn’t revenue; California residents are already among the highest taxed in the nation. California has the dubious distinction of the imposing the nation’s highest state income tax rates, the second-highest gasoline taxes (we’ll be the highest on July 1, 2020), high sales and utility taxes, and even higher DMV fees. These gold medals in taxation come at the same time that the federal government has killed the deductibility of state and local taxes.

So, our problem isn’t revenue. It’s spending — or rather misspending. Consider that in 2012, California voters passed new “temporary taxes” to support schools (Proposition 30). The teachers unions that backed Prop. 30 promised these new taxes would provide billions of dollars for the school system. Prop. 30 passed, but four years later, the same unions and their allies in government were back with Proposition 55, a measure to extend for 12 years the temporary taxes first passed in Prop. 30.

Residents in CUSD can point to a similar experience. In 1999, voters there passed Measure A, a multi-million-dollar bond advertised as urgent. District schools, Measure A supporters said, were plagued by asbestos, in need of roof repairs and earthquake retrofitting and new science laboratories. Today, 20 years later, Measures H & I CUSD use these same problems as the evidence that proves the district is starved of cash.

Voters have every right to ask where all those tax dollars went. District records show that some 86 percent of its income are spent on the salaries and benefits of its employees. Some of those employees are paid remarkably well for a district that can’t manage its money. CUSD Superintendent Kirsten Vital earned $333,267 in 2018. Her deputy, Clark Hampton clocked in at $241,556. By contrast, Gov. Gavin Newsom was given a raise in December, bringing him to $210,000 annually, making him the nation’s highest paid governor. The bottom line: Each of CUSD’s top officials earns more than California’s top elected official.

Finally, it’s important to note that student enrollment in CUSD is declining. CUSD’s internal documents confirm that district officials know this. And yet they want to use new bond taxes to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into school building projects. So why is the district asking taxpayers to pay for improvements to school sites it will likely close over the next few years? Or is the district planning to spend the bond revenue on other projects?

Voters deserve straightforward answers on what CUSD intends to do with their bond taxes before they vote to place additional 30-year tax lien on their properties.
Residents and taxpayers deserve better stewardship of their tax dollars. They deserve transparency from their local government school trustees and education bureaucrats.

Craig Alexander is a Dana Point resident, property owner and an attorney. For more information go to http://www.NoCUSDBonds.com and http://www.CapoKidsFirst.com.

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Capo Unified School District’s newest Bond Tax attempts: An Expensive Bad Idea!

Posted by Craig P Alexander on January 10, 2020

For the March 3, 2020 ballot Capistrano Unified School District is pushing two bond tax measures on the voters. Measure H for San Clemente (except Talega) and Capo Beach property owners and Measure I on the rest of Dana Point, all of Laguna Niguel and Aliso Viejo owners. If passed both measures would obligate voters to pay (with interest) an additional SEVEN HUNDRED TWENTY FOUR MILLION DOLLARS ($519,000,000.00 for Measure I plus $205,000,000.00 for Measure H) on top of all of the other taxes and bond taxes we already pay.

In this article I will set forth why these bond taxes are NOT a good idea. My knowledge of this subject comes from when I ran for the CUSD Board of Trustees in 2014, being part of a group that opposed CUSD’s Measure M in 2016 and the research I and others have done regarding past and present bond tax attempts. I wish to make three points.

The first is taxes. Or I should say taxes, taxes and more taxes. California residents are already among the highest taxed in the nation.

In 2012 voters passed new “temporary taxes” (Proposition 30) promoted by the teacher unions with a promise these taxes would provide billions of dollars for the school system.  Then in 2016 the same unions and their fellow travelers were successful in passing Proposition 55 resulting in most of the Prop. 30 “temporary taxes” being extended for twelve years.

Again voters were promised this was for public education. These higher income taxes have given California the dubious distinction of having the HIGHEST state income tax rates in the nation. This is in addition to gasoline taxes (second highest in the nation then, as of July 1, 2020, the highest) (Gas Taxes), higher sales and utility taxes, higher DMV fees, etc. with most of these taxes’ deductibility being limited by Federal tax law. It is reported that the state expects a $22 billion operating surplus and to have $20.59 billion in reserves this year. (CalTax ) Voters have every right to ask – where are those tax dollars we have already paid?

CUSD mismanages its funds!

There is one bond tax CUSD would apparently like for voters to forget about – CUSD’s Measure A bond tax passed in 1999. It’s on your current property tax bill and we are still paying for this bond tax (millions are still owed).  Importantly, as part of the 1999 Measure A pitch to the voters, the District listed as reasons for that bond tax the need for asbestos removal/roof repairs/earthquake retrofitting/renovating science laboratories.  Yet for Measures H & I CUSD is still listing these same items as needing repair!  So what did CUSD do with the bond tax money from Measure A?

Why are we being asked to pay twice for the same repairs?

CUSD constantly states it has no money of its own and it is slated via this bond tax to put zero of its own funds into these projects.  Where are our tax dollars CUSD currently receives going?  Over 86% of the District’s funds are spent on salaries and benefits of adult employees of the District.  Thus over the years it does not manage our tax money wisely to plan for building upkeep and maintenance.  For example:

2018 Salary & Benefits:                Regular Salary  & Benefits           Other Pay        Total

Superintendent Kristen Vital:       $333,267.00                                  $91,999.00      $425,266.00

Deputy Supt. Clark Hampton       $241,556.00                                  $58,755.86      $300,331.86

Gov. Edmond Brown, Jr.               $192,442.68                                  $92,730.31      $285,172.99

Thus the Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent each are paid more than the Governor of the State of California!  (Source: http://www.TransparentCalifornia.com).  And in December 2019 everyone at CUSD, including the Superintendent, received raises retroactive to July 1, 2019.

CUSD is a declining enrollment District!

CUSD’s own documents (Declining Enrollment) confirm the District itself knows this. Yet it wants to use these new bond taxes to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into school building projects.   The District, at pages B-3 (Measure H) and B-3 & B-4 (Measure I) list ALL of the existing schools implying all are slated for new construction from bond taxes.  So this raises the question: Why is the District asking the taxpayers to pay for improvements to school sites it will likely need to close over the next few years?  Or is the District not planning to spend the bond tax funds on some of these schools it will be forced to close due to declining enrollment?  If this is the case what is it really planning to do with these taxpayer funds?  Voters deserve straightforward answers on what CUSD intends to do with their bond taxes before they vote to place additional 30 year tax liens on their properties.  Either the District is not planning properly or it is not being forthright with its constituents!

Residents and taxpayers deserve better stewardship of their tax dollars! They deserve transparency from their local government school Trustees and education bureaucrats.   Please vote No on Measures H & I!

For more information go to Capo Kids First! on Facebook.  Learn more by attending the combined Chamber of Commerce Forum on this subject on Wednesday, January 29, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. at the City of Laguna Niguel’s Community Room (30111 Crown Valley Pkwy, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677).

Craig Alexander is a Dana Point resident, property owner and an attorney. This post is adapted from a guest column that appears in the Dana Point Times and the San Clemente Times.

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