Peralta Has Array of Projects Set Aside for Measure A Funding

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday November 14, 2006

The Peralta Community College District will spend Measure A bond money on any of the broad range of projects that appeared on last June’s ballot, not just on the line item “Measure A Capital Projects” list, which currently appears on the district’s Department of General Services website. 

That is the assessment of Peralta Chief Financial Officer Tom Smith in a telephone interview this week. 

It’s not the specified lin- item list on the district’s website that is “legally binding,” Smith said. Measure A projects must only “relate to projects that were listed on the ballot measure itself.” 

Smith also took issue with the assertions that Peralta does not have a plan for spending the Measure A money. 

“A lot has been going around about we don’t have a plan,” Smith said. “We do have a plan.” 

Aside from the list of Measure A projects appearing on Peralta’s website, Smith said that the district is currently undertaking intensive long-range strategic and facilities planning. 

The issue of two Measure A bond project lists came to light during the recent Peralta Area Seven trustee race when challenger, and now trustee-elect, Abel Guillen raised charges that Peralta “doesn’t have a plan for the spending of [the Measure A] bond money, just a laundry list of projects.” 

That echoed complaints made by Peralta trustee Nicky Gonzalez Yuen both recently and when the bond measure language was first approved by trustees last February.  

A subsequent investigation by the Daily Planet showed that two separate lists of proposed bond projects—one of them a generalized list, the second an itemized, budgeted list—were circulated by the Peralta administration on the night last February that Peralta trustees voted to authorize the bond measure. 

The more generalized list was placed before voters on the June ballot, but at least one trustee, Cy Gulassa, believed that trustees were voting during that February meeting on the itemized, budgeted list. 

California Proposition 39, under which the Peralta bonds were passed in June, requires that a list of bond projects be included or referenced in the ballot measure, but state law does not lay out how specific the bond list must be. 

Peralta CFO Smith said that the line-item list was produced first, coming out of a “detailed needs assessment report from the colleges and the district office. We then put together what we thought our facilities needs were for the next 15 years, at a cost of approximately $400 million to $600 million.”  

The line-item budget document produced, Smith said, “was used as the basis to write the ballot language.” 

Trustee Cy Gulassa’s memory of the genesis of the two lists is different. Gulassa told the Daily Planet last week that the generalized list came first, and that when he and other trustees complained that the list was not specific enough, the itemized line item budgeted list was then produced. 

The difference in the two lists is striking. The itemized project list gives specific project descriptions with estimated costs included, listing, for example, “Complete Modernization and Facility Renovation of Landscape Horticulture. Project will Include: Horticulture Retaining Wall Replacement; Rebuild Horticulture and Access to the Area—$3,094,085.” 

For the same building, the generalized list for Merritt College included with the Measure A ballot says simply “expansion of the horticulture library and additional office space.” 

CFO Smith said this week that when the more generalized list was produced for inclusion on the ballot, “we tried to make it flexible enough so that when our needs expand, we will have the flexibility to do the projects needed with the bond money.” 

Last June, area voters approved the Peralta Measure A ballot measure, approving the issuance of $390 million in bonds to finance facilities projects in the district. The district is currently putting together the legally mandated citizen oversight committee to monitor the spending of the Measure A bonds.