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County Taxpayers Association endorses $75 million Hancock bond measure

The bond measure that would help renovate and upgrade facilities at Allan Hancock College picked up a key endorsement Thursday.

“It’s an honor and it’s a privilege for the Taxpayers Association to support Measure Y,” said Joe Armendariz, Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association Executive Director. “We think it’s an important investment in an important educational institution.”

At a rally held at the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce, Armendariz, along with Lanny Ebenstein, who serves as the Taxpayers Association education chair, publicly announced the local watchdog group fully supports Measure Y.

The $75 million bond will be on the November ballot for voters in Northern Santa Barbara County.

“We think that if we look at all of the factors, this is a good deal for the taxpayers,” Armendariz said. “At about $11 per $100,000 of assessed value, the average Santa Maria homeowner will spend about $2 a month supporting this bond. We think that’s a great investment.”

According to supporters, the bond would help modernize Hancock facilities in Santa Maria, Lompoc and Solvang.

“It’s going to replace two building on the Santa Maria campus that are more than 50 years old,” said Hancock President/Superintendent Kevin Walthers. “It’s going to create a space for STEM education. It’s going to create a space for career technical education and some really cool programs like virtual reality, digital photography, computer animation, graphic design, even the sports medicine program. We’re also going to be able to expand our technical theater program in Solvang and get them some modern equipment. In Lompoc, we’re going to be able to add some new features it will be better for our students and better for local law enforcement and safety agencies that share that facility (Public Safety Complex) with us.”

Armendariz said the group carefully went through the details of the bond before lending its approval.

“We go through a very tedious process,” Armendariz said. “Frankly, we ask a lot of questions and we wait for those answers and then we make a determination as an organization as to whether or not we support that.”

He added the organization has supported and opposed many different bonds over the years.

“It’s definitely a case-by-case basis,” said Armendariz. “Over the last 20 years, we have probably supported about a billion dollars in education bonds over the years. I think we have been decisive in defeating several, but we have also been supportive that make sense. Measure Y is a great example of a bond that we believe makes sense. If it didn’t make sense, we would oppose it.”

One area resident who does oppose the bond is Jim Bull of Orcutt.

“When I go to the polls on November the 6th, I will vote on Measure Y,” said Bull.

Bull said all three of his children started their college careers at Allan Hancock College.

However, he feels the college should not be asking the public for money.

“I believe government entities should take the tax money that they’re allotted and use it wisely, saving the money and using it as you go,” said Bull.

Bull also pointed to information provided in the official Santa Barbara County voter guide, which states, “The best estimate from official sources of the total debt service, including the principal and interest, that would be required to be repaid if all the bonds are issued and sold is $142,543,028.”

“The truth is, that bond issue, over time will accrue a debt of $142 million, which must be repaid,” Bull said. “To repay the $75 million loan, bond, it would cost more than $140 million. I don’t believe that’s good financial management of our money.”

He also scoffs as the notion the college needs the money to renovate buildings that just over 50 years old.

“When I visited England and went to Cambridge University, I saw buildings that were built in the Middle Ages and some in the 1500 and 1600’s and their still being used and they’re still able to function as an educational center,” Bull said.

Bull added he has supported some bond measures in the past, but is wary about voting yes for another one.

“Before the bond is paid off in 30 years, how many more bonds will the property owners be asked to accrue to their existing tax bill,” said Bull, noting there how many other bonds for local school districts and other government entities come across local ballots.

Measure Y will need 55 percent of the vote to pass.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.

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