By Sal Casamassima
All voters in Alpine and Blossom Valley are urged to vote no on Measure BB — probably one of the worst propositions on the November ballot. Measure BB has been appropriately nicknamed “Bad Bond.” Here’s why it deserves this title and your no vote.
Measure BB will increase property taxes to support a bond measure for the Grossmont Union High School District. BB states the bond will pay for needed repairs, renovation and upgrades to its existing high schools and a new high school to serve Alpine and Blossom Valley.
It’s as if Grossmont was asking voters for the first time to approve such worthy objectives. If you think that you’ve heard all of this before, you are correct. Measure BB is the third time Grossmont has asked voters to approve taxpayer funds for these tasks, including an Alpine/Blossom Valley high school.
Don’t be fooled. Grossmont has no intention to build our long overdue high school and the amount of this bond cannot even fund a fraction of the projects listed. It is a complete fraud on voters and taxpayers.
When the $128 million set forth in BB is added to the two prior bonds (Props H and U) the total amount of the three bonds (plus state matching funds for which you are also taxed) will exceed an astounding $1 billion! Taken together, these bond measures add about $300-$400 a year in taxes for the average Alpine and Blossom Valley homeowner. Keep in mind you probably have already paid thousands of dollars to Grossmont since the passage of H in 2004 and U in 2008.
When interest is added, Alpiners alone will have to pay back $125 million to bond holders and you will continue to pay this steep bill for decades to come.
Grossmont has “authority” to issue another $100+ million in Prop U bonds, so why are they asking for this new bond?
Grossmont has burned through bond funds so quickly it reached the maximum amount it can tax property owners under that bond. In other words, it has maxed out its credit card against you, the taxpayer, and can’t borrow any more money in the bond market for several years. Grossmont now has the audacity to come back to ask taxpayers for a “bridge loan,” Measure BB, so they can get their hands on your hard-earned money to cover their lavish spending plans until the Prop. U spigot re-opens.
What has Alpine and Blossom Valley gotten from these huge bond measures? Not a thing — not even a stick in the ground. There is no Alpine high school under construction, and despite specific references in both H and U (and now in BB) to construct the high school there are no plans, now or in the future, to do so.
In fact, all work on the school has ceased and the design plans for the school were withdrawn in 2012. The school is at the bottom of Grossmont’s project list, and all bond funds will be long gone before a spade of dirt is lifted to build the school.
However, Grossmont did spend $25 million of your tax dollars to acquire the Lazy A site (90-acre parcel adjacent to the Albertson’s center), develop detailed architectural plans, and acquire state and federal environmental permits to build the school on the site.
Unless construction commences soon (which it won’t) these critical permits will expire, rendering the Lazy A completely worthless as a school site and flushing your $25 Million down the drain.
So what has Grossmont done with the huge sum of money collected under H and U? In addition to the Alpine/Blossom Valley school, they told voters bond funds would be used to “repair, renovate, rehabilitate and upgrade facilities,” just like they are now stating in BB.
Instead, much of that money went to build new Olympic-size swimming pools and aquatic centers, performing arts theaters, day care facilities, administrative offices and other pork barrel projects while badly needed renovations in many schools went undone. They also spent bond funds on management fees, administrative overhead and legal fees.
In other words, instead of building what they told voters, the bond funds have been spent on whatever favorite projects were lobbied for by those political constituents most favored by the Grossmont governing board.
Grossmont claims there will be “strict fiscal accountability” for how they handle BB bond funds with oversight from the “independent” Citizens Bond Oversight Committee (CBOC). This is another phony promise. The current CBOC (for H and U) made a mockery of the word “independent” and essentially operated as a political arm of the Grossmont governing board.
The questionable handling of bond funds and poor CBOC oversight has been the subject of sharp criticism by the press, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, and other respected individuals and entities.
Such conduct along with misleading statements to bond investors led to a Forbes magazine article that said the following about Grossmont:
“(Grossmont) was alleged to have diverted monies from a voter-approved measure and into non-authorized projects – a classic bait and switch scheme. When we investors read that what the uses of money are for and the issuer does not adhere to that specified project, why aren’t the people involved in jail? … Once (Grossmont) had the money in their hot little hands they thought they could do whatever they wanted with it rather than what they promised the taxpayers.”
Grossmont’s failure to build the Alpine high school also caught the attention of the San Diego County Grand Jury.
In 2012, the Grand Jury issued a scathing report entitled “Fool Us Once, Fool Us Twice” in which Grossmont was taken to task for not building the school as required in Props H and U. It made specific findings and recommendations to build the school which Grossmont completely ignored. The Grand Jury, therefore, would not be the least surprised that Grossmont now wants to fool us a third time with Measure BB.
In the prior two bond measures, the good people of Alpine and Blossom Valley were suckered into thinking these bonds would be used to build our badly needed high school. We believed the numerous personal promises by Grossmont board members to Alpine and Blossom Valley residents that they would build our school.
We believed their lies and voted twice in support of these bonds. Our local Indian tribes, Viejas and Sycuan, were also fooled into contributing tens of thousands of dollars to help promote both bonds to the voters.
We will be fooled no more. We now know Grossmont will never build us our school unless the courts or the state orders them to do so. Do not give them more of your hard-earned tax dollars to waste on everything except our local high school.
Sal Casamassima is chairman of the Alpine High School Citizens Committee.