Residents of the Cold Spring School district have been engaged in a heated debate over proposed Measure L2020. One of the questions many long-time district residents continue to raise is, “What happened to the Measure C2008 money?”
As a newer resident, I had no idea what they were referring to. So I did some digging and found the official bond language of Measure C.
● Measure C2008 will provide the following facility improvement projects identified as critical to student health, safety and learning:
● Renovating existing 80-year-old restrooms.
● Repairing, replacing, and upgrading aging electrical and mechanical systems to reduce energy consumption and utility bills.
● Improving student security and safety by upgrading the school wide alarm and communication systems.
● Repairing and replacing the existing roof and skylights on the older classroom buildings.
● Repairing and upgrading 50-year-old and 80-year-old classrooms with new flooring, cabinets and instructional surfaces.
● By law, Measure C2008 has taxpayer protections in place.
● All spending is annually audited and reviewed by an independent citizens’ oversight committee.
● No money is used for administrative or teacher salaries.
● Funds are only spent to improve Cold Spring School.
A lot of this language sounded familiar. Sure enough, in addition to “one or more new Art classrooms, a new Science, Engineering/Mathematics and Technologies and Maker Laboratories,” the official proposed Measure L2020 language includes the following:
● Repair or replace existing restrooms and plumbing.
● Repair and renovate historical classrooms and buildings.
● Repair aging water/sewer lines and other infrastructure.
● Replace aging fire alarms and school wide communication systems.
● Repair and replace aging roofs throughout campus.
● Improve electrical wiring through the campus.
By law, Measure L2020 also has to have taxpayer protections in place.
“Pursuant to Section 15772 of the Education Code, the Board will appoint a citizens’ oversight committee and conduct annual independent audits to assure that proceeds are spent only on projects included in the Project List set forth above and for no other purposes.”
Funny thing is, in my seven years at the school I have never heard of an Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee for the Measure C2008 Bond at Cold Spring School. Since it is clear that the bathrooms have yet to be renovated, I went looking to see where Measure C money was spent.
Board meeting agendas and board packets from before 2015 aren’t available on the district’s website, so it is hard to see where the bulk of the Measure C2008 monies went. However, I did find a few references from meetings from 2015 and forward that are interesting.
On Jan. 12, 2015, Item 11.B., the board unanimously approved using Measure C monies to pay for architect fees to design a new administration building. The following month, the board held a Special Session meeting, requiring just 24 hours public notice, beginning at 1:47 p.m. on a Thursday.
No members of the public were present when the four board members in attendance voted unanimously to approve a no-bid contract with architectural firm, KBZ, for an undisclosed amount (the presentation by KBZ at the meeting and a copy of the contract are not included in the minutes).
Measure C is mentioned again in Item 15.C of the board packet for Sept. 11, 2017.
The minutes read that according to District Legal Counsel Yuri Calderon, the cost estimate to survey district residents about a proposed Measure L2020 would be approximately $20,000. He added that Measure C monies could be used to pay for the survey.
The third reference is Item 14.B. in the April 9, 2018, board minutes. Here, four of the five Board members voted to move $117,000 from Fund 21 (the Measure C Bond monies fund) to “reimburse” the district’s Fund 40 Special Reserve for Capital Outlay Project. Monies from Fund 40 had been used to pay expenditures in preparation for a new, proposed bond measure, L2020.
Was any Measure C money ultimately spent on the survey for Measure L2020 or any other Measure L2020 related costs? The board meeting minutes do not allow us to draw a direct line between one and the other, but the implication is perfectly clear.
Public opinion surveys and architectural drawings for a new administration building were not on the Measure C2008 project list. And where is the Citizens’ Oversight Committee that is supposed to be monitoring this? Where are the agendas and minutes of the Oversight Committee’s meetings?
Where are the annual audits of the Measure C2008 monies? In defense of the current Board and Administration, the Governing Board President is the only trustee who was on the Board for all of these votes. Still, history does matter. Taxpayers deserve answers.
I want to take a moment to acknowledge former board member Katherine Davidson. She has written letters in this publication regarding the proposed Measure L2020. She was the lone “Nay” vote when the board majority voted to use Measure C money to reimburse Fund 40. She was also a board member who regularly asked questions or requested more time to review proposed actions and contracts.
To silence her, the board majority voted 4-1 during a Special Session Board meeting on Jan. 22, 2018, to change the board communication protocol so that only the board president would be allowed to directly communicate with the superintendent/principal. Requests for specific information made by a board member to district staff or administrators would now have to be made through the board president, who could “revise the communication, including but not limited to deleting, revising or summarizing content, before the communication was transmitted to the superintendent/[rincipal.”
So, to all the long-term residents who keep asking, “What happened to the Measure C money?,” that’s the $2,440,000 question — and a great question without a readily available answer, but some very interesting clues.
And to people still wondering how to vote on Measure L2020, I hope you see the mismanagement the Measure C monies and the silencing/censoring of board members as a warning. It’s times like these when I think of one of my late father’s favorite sayings: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
Amanda Rowan is a Cold Spring School District parent and resident.