By Samantha Bartholomew
The Board of Trustees voted to add a $715 million bond measure to the March 3 election ballot to fund facilities improvements of the Riverside Community College District colleges
If 55% of voters approve, the measure would provide money to improve classrooms and update technology at the veteran centers at the district’s three colleges.
Mary Figueroa, the board’s vice president, explained that the bond measure would provide better facilities and lead to better education outcomes such as an increase in timely completion and transfer rates.
“We need to continue to move into the next century,” Figueroa said.
Voters in the college district approved a $350 million bond measure in 2004, $33 million of which went to building the Culinary Arts Academy and stirred a conversation about whether or not Measure C funds could be used for administrative buildings.
“That money allowed nursing, student service and math buildings, cutting-edge tools for the culinary academy and more,” Figueroa said. “When the community trusted us, we were able to do great things, and now we need them to trust us again,” she said.
Figueroa also said it was important that the district adapt to changing technologies and expectations.
“Over a decade, needs change,” she said. “The governing board needs to have some leeway to say, ‘This has changed, it’s no longer needed — however, this is in the same realm.’”
A project list, Citizens’ Oversight Committee and independent audits will limit the types of projects on which board members can use the money.
According to the press release, the measure would cost each homeowner less than $50 per year until the bonds are paid off.
However, members of the Norco community, angered over the firing of Norco College President Bryan Reece last June, have said that the district doesn’t support their preferred president, they wouldn’t support the district’s request for more money.
“So many members of the community pleaded with (the Board of Trustees) to keep him,” Norco student Rosella Gomez said. “We were disregarded. If they won’t support us and then we won’t support them.”
Other community members are concerned about the language used in the ballot measure and question the logic behind formulating a Facilities Master Plan without planned funding.
“While I support the District and its goals, as written the bonds are ripe for abuse and I would not support the measure,” community member Robert Klein said. “I think it’s irresponsible to spend so many resources on creating this great Master Plan without knowing whether they would have the money for it.”
Figueroa said she hopes to convince anyone opposed to the measure that the spending is in their best interest.
“We’re always going to be concerned whenever any part of the community says they’re not going to be supportive,” she said. “I hope we’ll be able to explain to them how it’s going to benefit their families and students … I’m not seeing it as a lost cause. I’m seeing it as an opportunity to get into an engaged community to explain where we’re going.”
According to the resolution putting the measure on the ballot, money could also be used to replace leaky roofs, rusty plumbing, outdated and faulty electrical systems, and to expand and improve security.
“Our colleges are vital community and economic resources that ensure local students have access to quality, affordable education in the District,” Chancellor Wolde-Ab Isaac said in the release.
“Upgrading outdated classrooms, labs and career training facilities will allow Moreno Valley College, Norco College and Riverside City College to serve our well for decades to come.”