Less than a week after the Kern Community College District voted to place a $502.8 million bond measure on the November ballot, a group of residents is forming a group opposing the tax increase.
Joseph Doty, a contractor and homeowner who is spearheading the “No on KCCD Tax” group, called the measure “ambush politics.”
Residents have fewer than four months to organize a campaign against the bond measure, said Doty, adding that he and other Kern County homeowners are already “taxed to death.”
“We think this is an excessive bond, so even as a Bakersfield College alumnus, I think this is an excessive tax increase. I'm already paying – I've looked at my line items on my taxes, and I've got four or five other bonds there,” Doty said.
The Kern Community College District currently has three existing bonds in place, and at least one — the $203 million voter-approved Safety Repair and Improvement District bond — still has $268,130,422 in outstanding debt, KCCD officials said.
But Doty and his group will be opposing a bond that has already received broad support from community leaders, including Mayor Harvey Hall, who heads Bakersfield College's Blue Ribbon Committee, which has for more than a year raised awareness of the college's facility needs.
That doesn't faze Doty, who said his group has attracted some “high-profile people,” though he declined to name them. So far, the group has attracted more than 30 members.
“We're not just going to sit back,” said Doty, adding that the college could fund construction with money that doesn't come from taxpayers. He pointed to student fees and grants, though Doty admits he's not sure how much money the district collects annually outside of state funding.
“What we're trying to do is show that they have plenty of money,” Doty said.
KCCD Associate Vice Chancellor Michele Bresso defends the bond.
“This cause-and-effect effort results in a high return on investment that directly contributes to the economic vitality of our community,” Bresso said in a statement highlighting the services BC offers the community. She said BC acts as an economic hub for the valley by providing workforce training for most of Kern County's first responders and helps build a range of skills for veterans returning from military service.
The draft proposal presented during a June 30 board meeting includes more than 200 projects with a price tag that tops $670 million. Close to $100 million would go toward projects serving sport and athletic facilities.
But that list isn’t final, Bresso said. It’s only a wish list, and none of those projects listed — including a $25 million facility in Arvin that residents there have been fighting for, and have even publicly thanked trustees for — are still up for debate.
“Until we have a bond there will be no real list. Everything will be preliminary — not official,” Bresso said.
The bond, which has been endorsed by the Kern Taxpayers Association, includes some financing which Executive Director Mike Turnipseed regards as “revolutionary.”
Instead of financing a single 30-year bond, Turnipseed said, the district is financing several shorter four-year bonds to keep interest rates down. School bond financing typically results in taxpayers doling out $1 in interest for every dollar the district spends, Turnipseed said.
The district has cut those interest rates to about 10 cents or less per every dollar spent, Turnipseed said.
“It's a tremendous savings,” Turnipseed said.
The alternative financing approach is projected to save the district $431 million, Bresso said in an emailed response.
Despite that, Doty said he and his group are going to oppose not only the BC bond, but also a proposed half-cent to one-cent sales tax that public safety leaders want on the ballot to fund Kern County law enforcement agencies.
“I know I sound off the wall,” Doty said. “But there are a lot of people fed up feeling we're being taxed to death.”