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[whitespace] Measure E bond on ballot in November

College district lobbies for $248 million facilities bond

Cupertino--De Anza College president Martha Kanter enters her office bright and early on Sept. 21. It's Kanter's big day, the opening day of fall quarter and the beginning of another year at the school.

While walking over to her desk, Kanter spots her recycling bin sitting by the phone. Thinking nothing of it, Kanter decides the janitors must have forgotten to return it to its proper location. She places the box on the floor on the other side of her desk, collects the printout of the welcoming speech she will give to students and leaves her office.

Hours later, Kanter returns to her office and finds the recycling bin next to her phone again. Perplexed, Kanter looks around and happens to see a drop of water fall from the ceiling and land in the recycling bin. Water continues to drip from a spot near the lights and Kanter turns off the electricity as she calls maintenance.

A maintenance worker arrives at Kanter's office and sure enough, there is a leak in the roof. The roof is quickly patched and its business as usual for Kanter and the school.

"We have patched the roof once again," Kanter says. "Patching, it's not attractive and it's not glitzy, but this is basic maintenance."

Patching and emergency repairs is what the Foothill-De Anza Community College district has done since it opened four decades ago. But after years of scrimping and allocating the bare minimum to maintenance, the district is lobbying for the passage of Measure E, a $248 million facilities bond over a period of 10 years to repair and rehabilitate Foothill and De Anza colleges, in the Nov. 2 election.

The list of repairs includes replacing roofs, plumbing and electrical systems; refurbishing classrooms, science laboratories and restrooms; and constructing science and high-tech computer labs, classrooms and school facilities.

If approved, the bond money will be used for new general instruction buildings and a new student center to accommodate the growth in the student population.

At Foothill, professors are trying to teach technology classes with computers in rooms with only one electrical outlet.

Foothill College opened in 1957 to serve approximately 3,500 students and De Anza in 1967 for 4,000 students. Last year, enrollment at De Anza increased by 5 percent to bring the student body up to 25,000. Enrollment at De Anza is up again this year and the district expects to have 28,000 students at De Anza and 18,000 at Foothill.

The increase in population has created long waiting lists for classes because there isn't enough available classroom space.

Since De Anza opened, only two buildings have been constructed or renovated, the Advanced Technology Center and the expanded library. It took the school 10 years to get the money to build the Advanced Technology Center, Kanter says.

Because the school's first priority is teaching, the bare minimum has been used over the years to maintain De Anza's 60 buildings spread out over 100 acres. Now, it will cost $9.7 million to upgrade the heating and air conditioning system, $4.6 million to replace the roofs and $3.7 million to repair the main water line.

The school is already paying $1 million to renovate the Flint Center bathrooms so they are handicapped-accessible. The refurbishing began in July and should be completed by mid-December.

"We do what we can, but our first priority is teaching," Kanter says. "Our money goes to the classroom."

Opposing the bond is the Libertarian Party of Santa Clara County. The party feels the district has the money for maintenance, rebuilding and restoration of buildings and facilities, but has chosen to spend it in other ways and didn't keep up the buildings, says Marvin B. Rudin, chairman of the Santa Clara County party.

"I think that management of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District has failed to plan and segregate enough funds for building maintenance and repair from their present generous budget," Rudin says. "The amount of money they are asking for is excessive relative to not having demonstrated a need to require that much money."

Rudin says he has visited the campuses, and while they do need some maintenance, he didn't see restrooms or buildings broken down. "Everything was in quite good shape when I visited those campuses," he adds.

State funding for community colleges is at about half of the national average, Kanter says.

According to the California Post Secondary Education Commission, California's community colleges receive $3,839 for every full-time student, while the University of California system gets $15,836 and the California State University system received $8,065 for each full-time student.

If voters approve the bond, which required a two-thirds vote, the district becomes eligible for state matching funds. The amount the district could receive cannot be determined yet because the state is willing to match certain construction projects and not others.

The cost of the bond is added to people's property taxes at an estimated $14 for every $100,000 of assessed value, not market value. Thirty-six percent of the bond will be paid by commercial property owners, the rest by residential owners.

"The amount of money we spend to build and maintain prisons is much higher than we do for schools," Kanter says. "We're asking voters to preserve our legacy. We have been given a treasure, a gift to preserve. De Anza is 32 years old and we need to fix this place up. I feel we need to serve the community."

Neither De Anza or Foothill has had bond support since 1972.
Michelle Ku

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