McFarland schools failed to capture enough votes to pass Measure D, a $20 million bond to construct more classrooms and upgrade facilities as enrollment surges.

Voters soundly rejected Measure D, with 63% opposing the measure when final results were tallied Tuesday. The measure required two-thirds voter approval. 

The bond comes just months after the district asked voters in November to pass a bond worth $110 million, which Kern County Taxpayers Association Executive Director Mike Turnipseed called “the most ridiculous bond in the history of the state of California.”

That’s because the interest was so high it would have cost taxpayers in McFarland more than $230 million over 30 years, or about $19,500 for all 1,700 homeowners in town.

Despite the new $20 million bond measure being “much more reasonable,” according to McFarland Superintendent Victor Hopper, it was losing support Tuesday night.

He said the lack of support could have had to do with confusion among voters between bond projects and city projects, the community’s lack of trust in the district for proposing an expensive bond in November, and an opposition campaign that was mounted.

“I thought this was going to be easy when we got Kern Taxpayers [Association’s] blessing and endorsement,” Hopper said after learning the early results Tuesday night. “This was a curveball thrown at me with the opposition. I’m not politician, but I’m learning there’s no certainties.”

The district spent $30,000 to hold the special election, and thousands more preparing for the bond measure with demographic studies, surveys and polling.

Hopper said he isn’t planning on proposing another bond and would instead apply for state hardship money, however it’s unclear when the state would release the funds.

“We’re going to get in line and wait,” Hopper said.

A formal opposition group took issue with the potential relocation of a farm ag students use at McFarland Middle School. If the bond passed, administrators planned on relocating that farm from its space at McFarland Middle School down the street to a property adjacent to Horizon Elementary School to make way for athletic fields.

Hopper said athletics needed more space because McFarland was accepted into the South Sequoia League, which requires frosh-soph sports teams. McFarland has historically had just junior varsity and varsity squads.

Rumors that the farm would be closed entirely, Hopper said, were false. He promised that if the farm were relocated, it would be given more acreage.

“We tried the best we could to let them know and put it in writing on our website that, first and foremost, we wouldn’t be closing the [Future Farmers of America] program and, quite the contrary, if this bond passes, we’d give them a bigger farm and revitalize it so they could be strong,” Hopper said.

Last year saw historic records statewide both in the number of bonds passed — 154 — and the amount voters approved, roughly $27 billion. But McFarland's was one of about 30 bonds that failed in California.

Part of that could be because McFarland’s needs exceed its bonding capacity. By law, it can only ask voters to pay $60 per $100,000 of their assessed property valuations annually, and Prop 39 – the law governing state bonds – puts limits on how much a district can borrow.

To get around that, McFarland has been proposing bonds under Proposition 46, which allows districts to ask for any amount of money it wants with no limits and no independent oversight, but with one caveat – it must gain two-thirds voter approval. Proposition 39 bonds require just 55 percent.

Harold Pierce covers education and health for The Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter @RoldyPierce

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