Stephen C. Petzold | Sulphur Springs Back to the Trough

Letters to the Editor

I was shocked last fall when I learned that trustees of the Sulphur Springs Union School District approved Measure US for consideration by the voters on March 3.

Measure US is a general obligation bond of $78 million that will be repaid by property owners through a special tax assessment on essentially all real estate parcels in the district. This bond measure comes eight short years after Measure CK ($72 million) was approved by the voters in 2012.. 

Reflect on those numbers for just a moment. Over the span of eight short years, this moderate-sized district (5,600 students) wants the taxpayers to authorize a cumulative amount of $150 million in bond debt. This is happening while the state of California runs up a huge budget surplus and wastes money on projects like high-speed rail. 

Is it any wonder that many California residents and companies are choosing to move out of the state?

The tax rate statement published by district Superintendent Catherine Kawaguchi in the official sample ballot reveals that repayment of this bond will cost taxpayers an estimated $148 million and be collected through 2055-2056. Read it for yourself.

Measure CK (2012) funds have yet to be fully utilized. In fact the district just sold $10 million worth of bonds in December 2019. 

Taxpayers have been very generous in providing the local funds needed to provide for the students. Voters should not feel guilty by voting NO while exercising responsible financial stewardship.

District officials plead that most of the schools were built over 50 years ago, but they don’t tell you that the effective age is much less due to previous renovation programs.

I have researched the school accountability report cards (SARC) available online, and each facility’s condition is ranked good or exemplary. Do not believe the scary claims you read in the ballot argument. Call the district and ask for a school tour.

Measure US does not provide the required list of “specific list of projects to be funded” as required by the California Constitution. Even the impartial analysis of Measure US written by the L.A. County Counsel says that “approval of the measure does not guarantee proposed projects will be funded beyond local revenues generated by the measure.” 

Voters and taxpayers should not have to guess what work will be done by the district. The district has failed to share their strategy and project prioritization. “Give us the money and rest assured we will spend it on something” is their policy.

State grants based upon Measure US passage are not guaranteed and are funded by additional borrowing by the state of California. See Proposition 13 (2020) on the ballot and vote no on that proposition, too.

The trustees want you to believe that there are taxpayer protections built into Measure US in the form of a citizens bond oversight committee. However, during the last two years, the district has failed to keep a quorum for Measure CK by their own admission. The ballot measure fails to mention that inconvenient fact.

The Yes on Measure US Committee (Fair Political Practices Commission ID 1422987) is controlled by a powerful political consulting firm (Deane & Company) out of Sacramento. The campaign is funded by contractors that are part of the industrial school bond complex. These out-of-district firms profit handsomely when more school bonds are passed.

Everyone wants our children to succeed at school and in life. The Sulphur Springs facilities are modern and structurally adequate without layering debt over debt. Do not be fooled by misleading statements that distract while your pocket is picked for wasteful spending. 

I urge all voters in the Sulphur Springs district to vote NO on Measure US.

Stephen C. Petzold

Santa Clarita

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