A bond for Cuesta College; not if but when

June 20, 2012

Dr. Gil Stork

OPINION By PATRICK MULLEN and GILBERT H. STORK

Last month, Cuesta College trustees were asked to consider hiring a consultant to poll whether voters would support a local bond measure on the November ballot. On June 6, the Board of Trustees rejected the idea, not because the college is not in need, but because we think the time is not right to ask voters for money.

San Luis Obispo County residents continually remind us how important Cuesta College is to the vibrancy and health of the Central Coast. Thousands of community members along with their children, spouses, co-workers, neighbors and friends have benefited from the quality of programs and services, the access and availability of classes, and the relative low cost amid today’s climate of increasing public higher education costs. We continue to appreciate and be inspired by the local support and investment in Cuesta College.

In February, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges, directed us to show why Cuesta’s accreditation should not be withdrawn. The commission faulted the way we conduct and assess our planning — not on the quality of education our students receive. In addition, they questioned the college’s financial planning and stability. Our faculty, staff, students and administration have been keenly focused on efforts to reaffirm our accreditation status.

Patrick Mullen

Considering when to seek a bond measure is an important part of our job.  In the 1960s, when the college operated out of rented, World War II-era barracks on Camp San Luis Obispo property — which occasionally leaked and flooded in winter rains — it took three tries over three years to pass a $5 million bond ($29.6 million in today’s dollars) to build a new campus.  A few years later, as the campus continued to grow, college officials proposed another bond. It took two elections in 1974 to get voters to approve the $8.5 million bond ($39.5 million in 2012 dollars) to complete the original college campus.

Funding college needs changed drastically after the passage of 1978’s Proposition 13, which froze property taxes and eliminated Cuesta’s ability to pass community service taxes. The statewide measure sent the college’s budget into a tailspin as trustees scuttled programs (including football) and on-campus construction all but ground to a halt. State bond measures helped Cuesta officials meet some new facility needs over the next decades. This meant the college did not have to seek a local bond measure to pay for needed improvements.

In 2006, campus officials thought the time was right for the first local bond in 32 years.  Overall, Measure G sought $310 million to build 17 new buildings that would have provided students the 21st century technology, classrooms and science labs needed for job training and successful transfer to four-year universities. The remaining balance would have paid for needed repair of leaky roofs, decaying walls, sewer systems and outdated electrical systems.

The measure failed. Critics’ objections had more to do with the amount of the bond and the lack of clarity of the projects to be completed, than the overall need for additional funding. Like any home approaching 50 years old, Cuesta continues to need repairs, renovation and modernization. A bond is in the college’s immediate future.

But as in life, timing is everything. This fall, we’ll be encouraging county voters to support Gov. Brown’s California Sales and Income Tax Increase Initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot. This will help community colleges like Cuesta avoid further drastic reductions, which have already denied access to more than 3,000 students, while narrowing the state budget deficit.

Because of cutbacks from Sacramento, Cuesta had to carve an additional $3 million from the budget for the upcoming 2012/13 fiscal year. If the governor’s measure fails, the college will need to trim another $2.4 million. This reduction will result in having to eliminate approximately 200 more class sections. It would be a devastating cut that would drastically affect our ability to serve students and the community.

Cuesta College has significant financial needs. Our current fiscal difficulties have been exacerbated by the Great Recession and forced reductions from the state. While we are not seeking a local bond at this time, we are preparing to possibly do so in 2014.

It’s not if the college will need a bond measure, but when.

Patrick Mullen is president of the San Luis Obispo County Community College District Board of Trustees. He has served on the board overseeing Cuesta College since 2005.

Gilbert H. Stork is the superintendent/president of Cuesta College and a longtime San Luis Obispo resident. He has been on the staff at the college since 1967.


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Paso_citizen

Educat;ion is important, but the way the educational institutions, this country, this state, and local schools boards have handled the expenses over the past several years is criminal. There is an old saying, to the effect, “You can not expect different results, if you keep trying the same thing” Simply put, if what has been done has gotten the whole educational system in the mess that it is in – then

TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT. Stop nibbling around the edges, shifting dollars from one thing to pay for something else – and really do it different. Maybe you will fail, but by DAMN at least you show some guts in trying. If anyone, and I mean in particular, those school officials (elementary thru college) can say beyond any question that they have done it right (we just need more taxpayers money) then how do they explain where this country now ranks in the world for education. Nowhere

close to the top 10. And it has been going down for several years. Preparing students for the real world does not require classes that have no significance, additional campuses, fancy bulidings, and

humongous salaries and benefits. More and more TAX DOLLARS is not the answer.


The Gimlet Eye

We have something different: THE FREE MARKET.


PRIVATIZE IT. Make it do, or die.


WiseGuy

I’d like to support Cuesta College, which I’ve taken classes at, but I will not support it’s leaders who have spent massive amounts of time and money aimed at building a new campus in the South County in the midst of a huge budget crisis.


I’ve never gotten a decent explanation about why in this economy they would be pushing so hard for a project that would permanently increase overhead costs by millions of dollars per year, especially when there are two complete college campuses (Cuesta and Hancock) a 20 minute drive from the South County, along with lots of public school space at the local high schools where classes could be held.


Without any rational explanation, I am left to suspect that there was some sort of back room, personal profit incentive and kickback schemes that would inspire such an ill-conceived effort. Plus, we have been given no indication that the plan to buy land and build a new campus has been shelved.


So, Mr. Mullen, what gives?


abigchocoholic

Because of cutbacks from Sacramento, Cuesta had to carve an additional $3 million from the budget for the upcoming 2012/13 fiscal year. If the governor’s measure fails, the college will need to trim another $2.4 million.

———————————–

Do you people realize how large these numbers are? This is out of the operating budget for this upcoming year. This is probably more than all teachers and administrators make combined. There is no way Cuesta can cut this, no possible way.


Their goose is cooked. And yes, this is a microcosm of what’s going on all over the state. Spending has been out of control compared to revenues for 20 years now.


The Gimlet Eye

The demand for education will not go away.


But Cuesta College might go away.


Put it into the private sector and see how it does. There will be some big changes in how it is run if it does.


Sally

They spent 24 million on a performing arts center, just what this county needs another performing arts center. Lets be frank how many people will learn skills at the center that will lead to jobs.

I know someone will say it was not it was not Questa’s money it was a grant, but it still was taxpayer money.

I will be glad to pay more for schools, government ect if they can prove they are not wasting my money.


The Gimlet Eye

Wasting money is one of the few things that they are really good at; because it is not theirs.


pasowino

Considering that their infrastructure is crumbling and Cuesta is a very important educational facility for the county, I will certainly support a bond to keep this resource available to our local high school grads and for adults who wish to continue their education. It’s a bummer that the local community (on this forum anyway) won’t step up and support education in our county. I hate taxes as much as the next guy, but I see this as our chance to specifically choose where our taxes are spent. Cuesta and Cal Poly have such a large economic impact on the county that whatever the bond costs will be paid back 100 fold through economic activity in the county. More teachers, more students, more construction jobs, etc, etc. All of these students shop in local stores, rent from local landlords, eat in local restaurants, etc, etc. Trust me folks, you don’t want to see the alternative if Cuesta closed up shop and went away. Talk about a recession or depression in our local economy…


The Gimlet Eye

It’s not that demand for education is down. On the contrary. It’s the way we are going about it providing this service. Face it, the private sector does it better, all the way around. That’s an iron law of economics.


Get the government out of the education business, and we will all be better off.


pasowino

Private education is wonderful if you can afford it. Take Stanford University, USC, Harvard, etc, etc. Wonderful educational institutions! However, if Cuesta went private, most of the students that go there would not be able to afford it, therefore we would have an abundance of under-educated 20-somethings looking for work at McDonalds.


The Gimlet Eye

You are missing the point.


If the private sector ran all education, you would have what is called a “market.” The market would take care of prices, raising some, lowering others, but constantly fluctuating to reflect the realities of daily economic life. Prices would be FREED from government distortions and interference.


You must remember that a free market is based on the actions and choices of the AVERAGE PERSON, NOT THE RICH PERSON.


The vast majority of people are AVERAGE. The market, by and large, is not primarily concerned or designed to deal with the actions or choices of rich people. There are special niche markets in luxury goods for the rich.


This is counterintuitive, but the needs of the rich are actuallly secondary overall.


Have faith in free market economics. That is what will bring prices down to what the average person can afford and what will spread the goods and services far and wide, as well as improve them. Underperforming education businesses will be forced to improve and please their customers or go out of business.


There aren’t enough rich people in this country to constitute a country-wide free market for education! We must have the AVERAGE PERSON in it to make it go!


Right now, the business model for the public schools is failing. Time to bring in the Queen of Battle, THE FREE MARKET.


pasowino

I agree with you that the free market is the best way to achieve a lot of things. In this case, I don’t see how it’s even possible that a “business” can come in and offer a college education to a student at anywhere close to the cost they can currently get an education at Cuesta. Let’s say that a student pays $1,000 per semester in tuition (I suspect Cuesta is cheaper than that). There are 10,000 students. That’s 20 million dollars per year in income. I don’t see how anyone could run a campus, hire, pay, and retain quality teachers, have an administration department, and have all the necessary insurances, police department, etc, etc, etc for $20M per year. The only way a “private” company can do this would be to charge $5000 per semester and then it might work for them.


The reason education in our state/country is run by the government is that it benefits everyone, not just the ones who go to school. Since everyone benefits from it, everyone pays for it (in taxes of course). If tax dollars were not in the picture, only students would pay for it and the cost would be too high for 90% of students to attend. What would result would be a huge class of un-educated citizens and a small class of educated citizens and as a result the divide between rich and poor would grow even greater.


As a result U.S. companies would then move their R&D and engineering departments overseas to countries that support their education system and have a talented workforce, thus pushing the U.S. economy further and further into the toilet.


With that said, I still believe that public education is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing our government provides. I know it’s not perfect, but without it, we (the USA) are doomed to fall into 3rd world country status.


The Gimlet Eye

Cuesta college and private colleges are not comparable; Cuesta is the beneficiary of MONOPOLY PRIVILEGES. and artificially low prices.


This state of affairs is not sustainable, as even now we are witnessing the erosion of Cuesta’s ability to stay in business.


But it doesn’t make any sense to use government to offer services at artificially low prices, to subsidize a service that ought to be offered by the private sector. That’s a market distortion and can only harm the economic system in the long run.


Free up the pricing system and the “problem” will take care of itself via the free market.


BUT REGARDLESS OF WHAT CUESTA DOES OR DOES NOT DO, THIS PROCESS IS ALREADY HAPPENING.


Market players are going to bypass Cuesta’s government business model anyway (and all other public schools) with innovations and creativity, new alternatives and choices, new and better ways of delivering these services, with very competitive prices and quality to match, all dedicated to exchange with the AVERAGE PERSON.


As for your statement, “The reason education in our state/country is run by the government is that it benefits everyone, not just the ones who go to school,” I disagree.


The trouble with your reasoning is that you are overgeneralizing by thinking of people in groups or “wholes.” It is only individuals who make up a society and engage in economic action. Each individual acts differently. You cannot generalize about them this way or predict how they will act as if you were working with microbes in a laboratory. They all have different needs, outlooks, opinions, likes, preferences, and goals, and all these factors are SUBJECTIVE in nature, i.e., beyond they easy laws, formulas and equations of a science lab.


Economics, thus, is not a hard science. It is the study of choices, of purposeful human action of individual people, the workings of the human mind IN ACTION.


We must ask ourselves, who is any one of us to know what an entire economic market made up of countless individuals each acting differently can become or which direction it will go? It is meaningless to think like this.


There is no need for government intervention in the education market. Government has other motives for wanting to dominate this market, namely enhancing the power of the state by controlling what people learn and think.


“the cost would be too high for 90% of students to attend.”


That’s a non sequitur. You do not know that. Nobody knows that. In fact, when you factor in competition, just THE OPPOSITE would be the case. Remember, a free economy is based on the needs and pocket book of the AVERAGE PERSON, NOT the super rich.


The market will be the final arbiter of prices, not some government agency with no understanding of economic reality whose bureaucrats probably think that they can calculate with ordinal numbers.


Public education is a dinosaur, an abortive attempt to dominate a market for purely political reasons which are harmful to the majority of the people It is now in its death throes, the local version of the sickness being Cuesta College.


DON’T BAIL OUT THIS DINOSAUR! Sell it to Warren Buffet, sell it to the University of Phoenix, sell it to a chicken rancher, sell it to the Madonna family, but DON’T BAIL IT OUT WITH TAXPAYER MONEY WHATEVER YOU DO!


In a free market, THE CUSTOMER IS KING (and the CEO’s are our servants). They must please US.


In a mercantilist state, THE STATE IS KING (and YOU are the servant of the state).


Which appeals to you more?


Structure

Well, when you put it like that. I chose the State as king. Democratic socialism is better than Austrian Fairytails any day, but I do admire your consistency.


The Gimlet Eye

If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.


— Samuel Adams, speech at the Philadelphia State House, August 1, 1776.


The Gimlet Eye

Their business model simply doesn’t work anymore. The sooner the taxpayers realize this, the better off they will be.


Cuesta College is an albatross. Privatize this service and the market thus freed will take care of itself.


Vote no.


falconbh

I will be Voting NO on the Cuesta College Bond.


When you add up the State Sales Tax Increase, Cuesta Bond, Five Cities Fire Tax Bailout, Water

Rate Increases and all the other fees,bonds and taxes, it just becomes too Big of a Tax Burden for

the Middle Class and Seniors living on a fixed income. The taxpayers have been wiped out in this economic downturn.


The college needs to develop a new austerity budget, embrace pension,salary,benefit reform.

Revise the overload teaching pay policy. Eliminate costly programs and classes that are Not

needed. Then Stop giving out the Free Fee-Tuition Waivers, without proper documentation to support need.


Cuesta College, like so many other local agencies needs to start living in the New Normal- The Taxpayers Bank is Broke! Police,Fire, and Education, can no longer expect a Free Pass.


We cannot afford more taxes,bonds, and fees. Prop. 13 was voted in to help save your home.

Do Not undermine your financial security and the future of your family by approving more property

Taxes that place You at Risk.


Paso_citizen

TAX, TAX, TAX. that seems to be the only way governments, schools, or anybody else feeding at the public trough knows how to operate. If the president of Cuesta College REALLY wants to show due dillegence – he would simply reduce his own salary and humongous benefits, same for others at Cuesta. Just look at the bloated salaries, benefits, and retirement packages that higher education

people are getting today – the whole mess with CSU. And the taxpayers will be stuck with the bill.


But everyone can be assured that eventually this will be put on the ballot and passed. Read again the above and all can see that when a new tax, or bond, or more money is needed – it is tried, then tried again, and then tried again, and tried again – until it finally passes. This is the modus operandi used by governments (local, state, federal).


I, for one, will vote against additional taxes everytime, unless there is a very solid, understandable

reason for doing so.


The Gimlet Eye

The socialist state can’t calculate.


When you can’t calculate, you raise taxes.


When you raise taxes, you increase the magnitude of your obligation to calculate.


Since you can’t calculate, you lose/waster money.


Since you lose/waste money, you raise taxes to cover your losses and cover for your inability to calcultate.


And so the cycle continues until the system blows up in your face and there is then a revolt.


The Gimlet Eye

calculate. crummy keyboard here.


WiseGuy

Why had the Board at Cuesta been spending so much time and money trying to expand and build a satellite campus in the South County when there is this budget crisis?


The idea of building a South County campus has always seemed like a ridiculous, expensive boondoggle, especially considering it is only a 20 or 25 minute drive from the South County to either Cuesta or Hancock College.


pasowino

There is a substantial population of people in the south county that would like to go to college, but they are typically the students that are working moms, poor, and/or living at home and can’t afford (time or money) to drive 50-60 miles a day. I think a south county campus can make sense if they have enough students enroll. I know a couple people in Nipomo that quit going to school because driving to SLO was too inconvenient and too costly.


WiseGuy

It would be much cheaper to simply offer a low cost bus or shuttle system.


Hancock College is about a 10 or 15 minute drive from anywhere in Nipomo.


Also, there are Cuesta classes held at Arroyo Grande High and elsewhere.


So, I still don’t see an overwhelming need for a new campus at this time of budget crisis. It seems foolish or scandalous to claim otherwise.


The Gimlet Eye

Have you ever heard of the Internet? There, one will find lots of “online” education of all sorts. These programs free busy, innovative, people who do not want to, or cannot, commute to residential programs.


Public colleges and universities have been forced to get into this game right along with the privates, but they probably won’t be able to compete (in the long run) with the privates because they have too many restrictions on what they can do or how they can do it. Then of course, there are the PRICES to consider. To be truly “competitive,” the changes would virtually amount to privatization, something they they are scared to death of (because no more MONOPOLY PRIVILEGES, NO MORE PRICE CONTROLS, ETC.).