Developers, contractors big donors in Poway school bond campaign
By: SHAYNA CHABNER - Staff Writer
$179 million Prop. C on today's ballot
POWAY -- Supporters of a $179 million Poway school bond on today's ballot raised nearly $140,000 in four contributions last month from construction firms, political groups, consultants and developers who have worked with the school district, according to financial disclosure statements.
The four donations, ranging from $10,000 to $49,999 each, helped the Friends of Poway Unified Schools - Yes on Prop. C committee pay for last-chance election mailers, yard signs and surveys in the final push toward today's election, financial statements from the county registrar of voters' office show.
Meanwhile, the It's A Tax - Vote No on Prop. C committee collected and spent close to $2,000 in January on postage and recycled campaign signs that read "No New Taxes. No Blank Check. No 2 Prop. C."
If approved, it would raise money to complete a 24-school renovation and modernization project the Poway Unified School District began in 2002 when voters passed the $198 million Proposition U.
Prop. C would also pay for technology and campus security upgrades, as well as improvements that would bring schools in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act access requirements.
Funds from the 2002 construction bond were swallowed up by an unprecedented escalation in the cost of building materials, intense competition for contractors because of a housing boom and Hurricane Katrina, and unexpected repairs at nearly a dozen Prop. U-financed campuses, district officials have said.
At least 55 percent of the voters have to approve Prop. C for it to pass. Only homeowners within Poway Unified's boundaries who do not pay Mello-Roos taxes -- charges similar to homeowners association fees -- are subject to the extension and will be allowed to vote on Prop. C.
The measure would extend the current tax rate of $55 per $100,000 of assessed value on homes for an additional 11 to 14 years, without raising the rate.
"It's not going to change your tax rate and the money stays here," said Lorene Joosten, one of two parents chairing the Friends of Poway Unified Committee. "It goes right into the classrooms."
The Yes on Prop. C committee spent nearly $144,560 between November and February, according to financial statements filed through Jan. 26. During that same time period, the committee collected about $199,200.
The largest single donations to date flooded in last month, including a $49,999 check from construction firm Douglas E. Barnhart. Other big contributions from last month: $49,000 donation from NTD Architects; $30,000 from the construction consulting firm Pinnacle One; and $10,000 from the political action committee for the Associated General Contractors in the San Diego region.
The three companies have worked on the district's school renovation and building program.
Together, they have received nearly $42.1 million for projects in the district since 2002, the districts' Bond Program Manger Mark Claussen said.
Nearly 140 contractors have been hired by the district for a cost of more than $291.6 million during that same period.
Opponents of the measure argue that the contractors and other companies and groups related to the building industry have donated and supported Prop. C only because they have a financial interest in keeping the building program running.
Similar charges were also levied by opponents six years ago.
"The same people that donated to (the 2002 bond) are donating to this bond," Melinda Converse, chairwoman of No on Prop. C said. "Those are the contractors that are financially benefiting."
District officials and bond supporters have argued, however, that contracts are given to the lowest bidder and not to companies that donate money to help pass a bond.
Supporters have also received a handful of $5,000 to $10,000 contributions from bond consultants, law firms, and construction companies outside the region, a $10,000 donation from the Poway Federation of Teachers, and several $100 or more donations from district and school employees.