Napa Valley College is continuing on its path to place a $280 million bond tax on the June 2018 ballot. At their Nov. 9 board of trustees meeting, six of the seven trustees voted to spend $48,000 to hire a consultant to try again to convince Napa residents to vote for the bond.
The board of trustees voted to spend $48,000 knowing that the recent polling by another hired consultant showed that only 25.4 percent of the respondents stated they would vote 'yes.' The requirement to pass a bond tax is 55 percent.
And this year’s polling actually shows a decline in voter support from the bond election that failed in 2014. Has college administration failed to understand the messages of the last two bond elections or are they out to lunch and don’t care if they waste megabucks as they lose a third bond election in a row?
$280 million is a lot of money. Attempts by one of our Taxpayers Association directors to contact the individual involved in development of the college master facilities plan to discuss how this cost was developed have been unsuccessful. A trustee was recently asked if anyone at the college has ever managed the construction and financial administration of a $280 million project. Her response was she could think of no one with such experience.
This should concern all taxpayers because past fears were proven correct when it was learned through local news reports that Measure N, the last approved college bond, lost $70 million due to cost overruns in 2007. As you may suspect, cost overruns in a construction context are properly called mismanagement. And, we are still paying for that mismanagement and will continue paying for at least another 10 years in the taxes on our homes.
The Napa County Taxpayers Association will oppose this new bond tax. Actions by a paid consultant to promote a new bond measure only raises ethical questions and will not alter our vigorous opposition to a new bond proposal. I believe Napa Valley College administration should demonstrate a willingness to learn from past bond failures. This would seem to be necessary before actions can be taken to develop meaningful detailed specifics and control measures which can be clearly communicated to the voters considering any new bond tax.
Jack Gray, Director
Napa County Taxpayers Association
Editor’s Note: The Register asked the college about the issues raised in the author’s letter. Spokesman Doug Ernst said the Napa Valley Community College District’s Board of Trustees has not decided to place a bond measure before voters. He said “As reported, the district is engaging the community, faculty, staff and students through polling and other means to identify needs. It would be inappropriate for the college to speculate about what the public wants, except to say that up to 57.4 percent indicated potential support for a local bond. Over the coming months the college will continue to gather community feedback, provide the public with plans to address needs, and estimate the cost before any decision is made regarding a potential measure for voter consideration. Details about the survey can be found at www.napavalley.edu under ‘Community Survey Results Press Release’ and ‘Highlights of the 2017 Community Survey.’”