Editor: At the St. Helena Unified School District’s request, Napa County Taxpayers Association members met with district management on July 5, 2012, and presented three pages of questions and recommendations. The NCTA has considerable experience with school bonds, having members on three oversight committees in Napa County and one member on the statewide California League of Bond Oversight Committees.
The NCTA provides the following rationale for our position regarding this bond measure:
• Staff and administrators in St. Helena are paid at the highest levels in California.
• St. Helena’s budget is more than three times per student compared to Napa Valley Unified’s, and has only two-thirds the number of students per teacher.
• The district has demonstrated little control for spending of the 2010 bond funds and is asking for another school bond. For example, the 2010 bond was to provide for upgrades of technology in the schools. The Measure C bond again requests these funds.
• The district has used long-term bond funds and plans to use money from this second bond to make repairs such as re-roofing and renovations to deteriorating facilities, upgrades of playing fields and purchases of furniture and supplies. Long-term funds should not be used for maintenance.
• If Measure C passes there will be a total of approximately $60 million of bonds, averaging $50,000 per enrolled student. In contrast, Napa Valley Unified bonds average only $17,000 per student.
• District studies on classroom size, technology and school safety are required by the state constitution and are stated in the Bond Resolution, but although requested by NCTA, studies have not been provided.
• Refinancing of school bonds, commonly known as refunding, has triggered statewide concerns. We requested strict controls on future refunding including that they state the ultimate term of any refunded bonds. We also requested that no refunding costs be paid from proceeds because these costs are rarely determined by competitive bid, the public is not consulted, and the costs increase the indebtedness to property owners without a vote. And, we requested that capital appreciation bonds and subsidized bonds be prohibited. We received no response to this request. In our opinion, the bond resolution does not provide adequate controls on refundings.
• We found no tax rate statement in the bond resolution and no guarantee of rate stability over the life of the bond.
• Detailed plans, cost estimates and details on long-term project management for each project and expenditure in the bond resolution have been requested but have not been provided.
In summary, the NCTA considers the bond resolution vague and lacking in sufficient specifics to guarantee good management and adequate oversight.
Jack Gray, vice president
Leon Brauning, director
Cathy Clark, director
Napa County Taxpayers Association