Board of Supervisors to levy taxes for voter-approved Measure E bonds

Attendees gather before the ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the Don Takeda Canyon Country Science Center in Canyon Country on Wednesday, 120121. Dan Watson/The Signal

In 2016, SCV residents passed a bond measure to fund Santa Clarita Community College District projects 

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution to levy taxes for the payment of Measure E bonds and to direct the Auditor-Controller of the county to place these taxes on the tax roll beginning in the fiscal year of 2023-24. 

According to the agenda, Santa Clarita Valley residents passed a bond measure, Measure E, in 2016, which was submitted to voters by the Santa Clarita Community College District — encompassing College of the Canyons. The total amount of the bond was set at $230 million with a property tax rate of $15 per $100,000 in assessed value, which would be required to repay the bonds, according to district officials.  

“There’s a legal cap on bond measures that you can go up to $25 per $100,000 of assessed value,” said Eric Harnish, vice president of public information, advocacy and external relations for COC. “But we set our own cap. Our goal is to keep it at $15 per $100,000 of assessed value. Our goal is to stay well under that higher cap and be good stewards of the taxpayer resources.” 

According to Sharlene Coleal, COC’s assistant superintendent and vice president of business services, for the average home of about $800,000, that would be about $120 per year in property tax.  

The purpose of Measure E was “to upgrade College of the Canyons’ classrooms, labs/technology to prepare students for four-year college/science, aerospace, teaching, nursing/manufacturing, accommodate growing student enrollment, expand veterans’ services/public safety training, upgrade accessibility, enhance parking, improve earthquake safety/qualify for state matching funds, and construct, acquire, repair classrooms, sites, facilities/equipment,” according to the ballot measure. 

COC issued its first and second series of bonds and authorized an aggregate principal amount of $50 million and $85 million in May 2017 and August 2019, respectively. COC will now issue its third and final series of Measure E bonds for $95 million, which would then afford the total $230 million. 

“The bonds have to be issued first,” Coleal said. “We are planning to issue the bonds in October of this year, but the repayment of the debt service is done twice a year. Typically, it’s the way it’s done.” 

“So, we won’t have a bond repayment or debt service payments until 2023-2024. In each bond issuance, the taxes are levied by L.A. County. They’re collected and then transferred to U.S. Bank, and then U.S. Bank makes the debt service payment, meaning the principal and interest payment when those come due.” 

According to the official argument opposing Measure E in 2016, signed by G. Rick Marshal, chief financial officer and representative of the California Taxpayers Action Network, Measure E was the third bond measure in 15 years, as SCV voters previously passed Measure C for $80 million and Measure M for $160 million. 

Marshall argued whether it was pertinent for taxpayers to consider a third bond measure. The “project list” for Measure E was also generic, he added, and he included there was “no guarantee any particular things will be done at any particular location.”  

However, the official argument supporting the measure, which was signed by Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, Don Fleming, co-chair of the SCV Economic Development Corp. in 2016, and others, cited a need to relieve overcrowding and update facilities. 

“Enrollment surpassed 20,000 students this year,” the argument read. “Projections show it will climb 50% to 30,000 in just over 10 years. Nursing, law, enforcement and firefighting programs turn away students for lack of classrooms and labs, despite rising shortages in these critical professions.” 

Harnish said COC has completed a variety of projects, which include the construction of new buildings and structure enhancements.  

“At the Valencia campus, we built the parking structure at the corner of Valencia and Rockwell,” Harnish said. “Over at the Canyon Country campus, we built a central energy plant that is an efficient method for heating and cooling the buildings on campus.” 

The most visible project funded by Measure E funds is the Takeda Science Center on the Canyon Country campus, which is a 55,000-square-foot building with four biology and four chemistry labs. 

“That one building doubled the amount of instructional space that was available on that campus,” Harnish said.  

According to Harnish, COC is expected to unveil its Student Services and Learning Resources Center before the end of this calendar year. The building will be 55,000 square feet and provide a “full complement of students’ services, spaces and programs in one location on campus,” he added, and it will also include a library and tutoring center. 

Over at the Valencia campus, COC plans to modernize Boykin Hall, which dates back to 1975, and was one of the first buildings constructed at the campus. COC will also give it a seismic upgrade. 

Harnish noted Measure E funds were also used to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disability Act. 

“That was a project that probably touched every building on the Valencia campus, whether it was widening doorways or replacing door locks, things like that,” Harnish said. 

Upcoming projects include an Applied Technology Center that will house programs in manufacturing, technology, welding and machining. The Student Center at the Valencia campus will undergo modernization, too, and serve as a focal point for student life. 

COC is also looking to remove two major modular-designed buildings at the Canyon Country campus and build a new instructional building. 

“We’re really excited to see that campus continue to transition from those initial modular structures into permanent structures and see the campus reach its full potential,” Harnish said. 

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