Why we support Measure A

On March 5, local voters will be asked to pass a general-obligation bond that would authorize close to $85 million for the Butte-Glenn Community College District. The News & Review fully supports Measure A and urges its readers to do so as well.

California’s community college system is one of those assets that have long set California apart from the rest of the country. Up until the early 1980s, tuition at a California community college was actually free, allowing many who would otherwise have no such opportunity to further their educations and greatly economize the cost of a four-year degree.

But the state revenue fallout from Proposition 13, the 1978 property tax revolt, eventually made it necessary for community colleges to start charging tuition. The state’s CC system has worked to keep tuition relatively low and still within reach of many lower-income residents. But this comes at a cost of deferred maintenance, temporary buildings remaining up much longer than intended and overcrowded classrooms.

Butte is no exception. Since 1995 enrollment at the school has increased 48 percent, and many of its “temporary” buildings are now more than 30 years old. Together, they account for 40 percent of the school’s classrooms, labs and other buildings. And, as tends to happen when maintenance is deferred, the campus is suffering from faulty plumbing, frayed electrical wiring and leaky roofs.

Revenue from the bond would also construct buildings to house the fire and law enforcement training centers, improve the library and provide $14 million to build a Chico center near the Wittmeier Auto Center on Highway 99.

None of the money would go to salaries or administrative overhead, and an independent committee would oversee how the money from the bond was spent.

Passage of the measure, which requires 55 percent of the vote, would result in an increase in property taxes at an average rate of about $20.88 per $100,000 assessed valuation from next year thorough 2009.

The only stated opposition to Measure A comes from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which argues that any increase in property taxes should require approval by fully two-thirds plus one of the voters. History in this area shows that such a requirement is nearly impossible to achieve, particularly for school-related matters. The argument by anti-tax groups calling for a supermajority for passage is that those who don’t have to pay property taxes—renters who tend to be low income and more likely to attend a community college—will vote for the bond but not have to pay for it.

Unfortunately, there are voters among us who do not share the social kinship needed to support a community college. Either their children are already grown and educated or they themselves have no interest in what community colleges offer. But this narrow thinking does not take into account the many intangibles higher education brings to a region and its population. That, after all, is why they are called "community colleges."