Opinion

Yes on Measure C

Bond Measure C on the June 7 primary election ballot would provide $485 million to the State Center Community College District for much-needed repairs and upgrades of aging facilities, and new construction for the district’s three schools and three centers - Including $25 million earmarked for a new Oakhurst campus.

In addition to the Oakhurst project, the bond will allow the district to repair and upgrade the other five campuses (Fresno, Clovis, Reedley, Madera, and Career and Technology Center), in order to prepare students for their futures.

District improvements will include state-of-the-art career technical education facilities, in addition to upgrading classroom buildings, labs, and technology for the nearly 50,000 high school graduates, veterans, and adults that are served with an affordable education by the district.

Fresno City College, with an enrollment of 34,000, is the oldest community college in the the state, having celebrated its centennial in 2010.

To the delight of the community, the district first offered classes at Yosemite High School in 1989, before the Oakhurst Community College Center at the corner of Road 426 and Civic Circle first greeted students in the spring of 1996. The facility currently serves about 1,300 students.

The trailer-campus has served the community well for 20 years, but Measure C gives us the opportunity to have a real campus in our community offering expanded programs. District officials are envisioning specialty programs for the Oakhurst campus such as natural resources and hospitality.

Although the site location process for Oakhurst is on hold until the measure is passed, all agree the current 2.7-acre location is much too small for anticipated growth in Eastern Madera County over the next 20 to 30 years. An Oakhurst area campus serving 3,000 or 4,000 students 20 years from now is a very realistic possibility.

Property owners would pay off the bonds through a small increase in property taxes at $18.50 per $100,000 valuation annually.

The bond measure includes independent annual financial and performance audits, all overseen by an oversight committee. Under state law, the bond can only go to facilities projects, and can not be used for any other purpose, including teacher and administrator salaries, or other ongoing operating expenses.

The district put together a facilities master plan in 2010 that identified and prioritized the needs of the district. After five years of revisions, including permanent buildings for Oakhurst, highlights of the plan include:

*  The addition of a $50 million, 1,500 space parking structure at Fresno City College, and new math and science classrooms.

*  Expanding the Center for Advanced Manufacturing on the Madera campus, and complete Academic Village 1 building, providing additional lecture, library and office space. Laboratory space for the growing nursing program is currently in portables.

*  New life science and agriculture facilities, and a performing arts center for Reedley College.

*  New career technology building for Clovis Community College.

*  State of the art police and fire academies at a career technical education facility in Fresno.

*  A new facility in West Fresno to help a currently under-served population.

The passage of Measure C would also provide the opportunity for millions of dollars is state matching funds to the district if the state facilities bond passes in November. If Measure C does not pass, the state matching funds would all go to Southern California and the Bay Area. The passage of Measure C would also provide Oakhurst construction jobs and permanent jobs on campus with the expansion.

Measure C must be approved by at least 55% of the voters throughout the State Center Community College District.

The district has proven a good steward of bond funds. More than 94% of the proposed projects from the $161 million bond passed in 2002 (Measure E) have been completed as promised with the help of an oversight committee and spending provisions, safeguards Measure C will also have. It would be 100% if the matching funds promised by the state at the time became reality.

Madera County is represented on the SCCCD board of trustees by Bobby Kahn. As the executive director of the Madera County Economic Development Commission, Kahn is as dedicated to improving educational opportunities in Madera County as he is in improving economic growth in the county.

He says voters in Eastern Madera County need to take advantage of this big opportunity at the cost of pennies a day.

All the SCCCD students, including Eastern Madera County, deserve the best educational opportunities possible, and the facilities those opportunities are housed in.

Vote Yes on Measure C June 7.

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