Sierra College Trustee Report Offers No New Solutions
Written by John McCreadie
Sierra College Board Trustee Aaron Klein, who is running for re-election this November, released a self-authored report Sept. 8 highlighting funding proposals the seven-member Board of Trustees were already working towards.
“I’m not saying there is anything new (in this report), but it integrates (past proposals) all together,” says Klein, who has been a controversial board member who successfully dodged a recall effort two years ago.
Klein says alternative funding proposals “would not raise taxes one dime” and estimates they will generate more than $85 million in new capital project funding by 2015, in addition to adding ongoing funding of more than $11 million a year. Critics believe such revenue projections are overly optimistic, especially in the current economic environment.
“It’s a wildly uncertain funding scheme,” says Board Trustee Bill Martin, a critic of Klein who supported the recall effort against him and Board Trustee Jerry Simmons in 2006. Simmons is not seeking re-election.
Even Klein himself acknowledges in the report that alternative funding proposals will not meet all of the college’s needs. “It is quite possible that the college will not be able to acquire every last facility or modernization that it might need using alternative funding sources,” he writes.
According to Martin, the Sierra College Facilities Master Plan, which provides preliminary cost estimates for needed renovations, approximates the college will require $300-$500 million for those renovations. While Martin believes alternative-funding measures should be taken, he says they fall short of meeting the college’s short and long-term needs.
“This report is Exhibit A in this board’s failure to make the case for the college’s needs to its own citizens,” says Martin.
At the heart of the issue are bond measures that were presented to Placer County voters in past elections that were shot down by voters. Typically, community colleges depend on voter-approved bonds to help finance high-cost facility upgrades or new building construction.
“There’s a continued belief on the other side that we can’t make any progress without a massive tax increase,” says Klein. “Whether you are for or against a bond measure, we need to move forward.”
Counters Martin: “I am not arguing for a bond. I am arguing for the board to be honest with the citizens of this community regarding the college’s needs.”
The report, entitled “Practical Solution for Real Progress on Sierra College Facilities,” highlights four broad categories to fund projects such as facilities improvements and new facilities construction.
While Klein argues there “is a strong potential” to acquire $30 million in federal funding between 2010-2015, Martin points out the current majority on the board has been in place for four years with no movement towards gaining significant federal support.
In the report, Klein notes there are potentially other alternative-funding ideas yet to be explored, including trying to influence changes in state standards that require the college “to build to San Francisco earthquake standards.” He acknowledged, however, that the chances of being successful with such an effort are slim.
Klein states his objective with the report is to “explore” his position on what makes Sierra College unique and why alternative funding vehicles are needed in Placer County, the most conservative county in the state.
“At its heart, this report is the expression of the political philosophy of a single trustee,” says Martin. “It’s nothing more than political grandstanding in an election year.”
The Board of Trustees voted 5-2 to approve alternative funding proposals, along with a decree to “pursue a bond measure at an appropriate time.” Board members Barbara Vineyard and Jerry Simmons opposed the board directive.
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