The $850 million bond measure placed on the upcoming June ballot by the Long Beach City College (LBCC) Board of Trustees is the largest the college has ever tried to pass and, if you ask Superintendent-President Eloy Ortiz Oakley, it’s with good reason. He’s ready with answers for voters who might wonder why the college needs to pass another bond measure, considering that they passed one in 2008.


When voters passed the 2008 Measure E bond program, the $440 million price tag was determined “based on an understanding that the State of California was going to fund several additional projects themselves,” Oakley said. For those projects, the college would have only had to provide matching funds, rather than footing the whole bill.


“Subsequently, the state never funded construction projects for community colleges and K-12’s, and still hasn’t, and has no plans to,” Oakley said. “We lost upwards of $100 million just from the lack of state spending on community college facilities.”


As a result, several projects originally supposed to be funded under Measure E would be integrated into the new bond program, according to Oakley. These projects, which would improve areas the public accesses on a daily basis like the school’s auditorium, were never started because of a lack of state funding, he noted.


Oakley cited two other major factors necessitating another bond measure, both related to increasing compliance costs. “The accessibility requirements for disabled students have changed significantly since 2008,” he said. “We have many old buildings still from the ’40s and ’50s that don’t meet the accessibility requirements, and we have a sizable disabled student population. So that has driven up the cost of all new construction, and for good reason.”


There are other costs of compliance related to equal access to technology for the disabled student population. “Every technology that we use, every video that we produce, every YouTube production that we have has to be accessible to the disabled. So that’s a cost,” Oakley explained.


Another major cause of increased costs for the college is “the ever-increasing environmental regulations.” Oakley said the college supports such regulations, but that “considerable costs” are associated with them. “They have considerable costs on the college to do things like get off the grid as much as possible, to become as sustainable as possible, to capture as much rainwater as possible, [and] to reduce the [school’s] carbon footprint,” he said.


The new bond measure would fund projects related to adhering to these regulations, such as upgrading the college’s utilities infrastructure. “We would be building significantly more solar projects, improving parking to provide for more access to charging stations for electric vehicles, improving our heating, ventilation and air conditioning – in general, getting both campuses to be as sustainable as possible,” Oakley explained.


The college also needs funding to build more facilities in preparation for a growing student body. “We have a sizable cohort of veterans coming back,” Oakley said. “We need to continue to build more classrooms and more facilities that support the kind of career training that they need, [and] many of the students coming from our local community need to get into jobs more quickly.”


If the new bond measure is passed, it would help to pay for parking improvements and two new buildings with classrooms and lecture halls to accommodate the growing student body at the Pacific Coast Campus, Oakley said.


The Liberal Arts Campus would also be a beneficiary of the new bond program. The campus’s M Building, which houses technology and office programs, as well as some social science courses, is “literally falling apart,” Oakley said. “That is one of our largest classroom buildings at the liberal arts campus. We really need to modernize it, and that is certainly a project that is at the top of the list.”


The cost of the bond measure on the June ballot takes into account that the school likely won’t receive any state funding, according to Oakley. “We have learned our lesson. We are not counting on state support any time in the near future,” he said. “We feel we have designed a program that would satisfy the needs of this college for the next 50 years at least, without worrying about the state.”


If passed, the new LBCC bond measure would last for 25 years. Property owners would pay $25 per $100,000 assessed value of their property annually to fund the bond measure. Until the Measure E program is paid off, property owners would be paying for both bond programs concurrently. College leadership has not yet decided whether or not to issue the last series of Measure E bonds this year, according to a college spokesperson. If the new measure doesn’t pass, the last payment for Measure E would be 25 years from now.


Also on the June ballot is a proposal to raise the city’s sales tax by 1 percentage point (from 9 to 10 percet) for six years, then declining to half a percent (9.5 pecent)  for four years. When asked if this concurrent proposal to raise costs for residents might dissuade more people from passing the bond measure, Oakley replied that there is always competition on any ballot.


“Although we understand the needs of the city and certainly support what they’re doing, we’re going to focus on the needs of our students and try to communicate the value of an investment in higher education locally to the taxpayers of the greater Long Beach area,” Oakley said. “And I think that they’ll respond as they have in the past.”


Oakley added that he would like to thank the community, and that he “can tell them very confidently that their tax dollars are going to be put to use to ensure that the future of Long Beach continues to be very bright and that their investment in our students, their students, will pay off many fold going forward in the future.”


(Note: The Business Journal is on record supporting the college’s bond measure.)