SB Sun: Association vows to stop school bonds


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Association vows to stop school bonds
Stacia Glenn, Staff Writer
San Bernardino County Sun
A newly formed group has vowed to defeat all efforts to raise taxes or pass bonds in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Members of the six-member Inland Empire Taxpayers Association in Banning say they are overtaxed and tired of paying for the growth happening in the San Gorgonio Pass area.

The battle will begin with two proposed school bonds that will be on the June 6 ballot – a $720 million bond for the Mount San Jacinto Community College District and a $63 million bond for the Banning Unified School District.

The school bonds follow closely on the heels of a successful $108 million bond for the expansion of San Gorgonio Memorial Hospital in Banning.

“If no one’s going to stand up and say anything, it’s not going to stop,” said Chris Mann, who founded the association. “We believe the funding structure itself has to change from Sacramento down.

“When one of these bonds comes up, it’s always for a worthy cause. But if every time there’s a need government comes to us and we just dish out more money, government will never have to set priorities about which causes to fund.”

The problem is not that governments have a lack of revenue, Mann said, it’s that governments on all levels are not spending the money responsibly.

Mount San Jacinto and Banning district officials say the bonds are necessary to provide students a good educational atmosphere.

“I think it is a little bit irresponsible for this group to come together for the sole purpose of just trying to put down these bonds,” said Amy Herr, a member of the Banning Unified school board. “The bond we’re going out for is absolutely necessary. We are not going for anything frivolous or that is not absolutely needed.”

Banning Unified’s proposed 25-year bond would be used to bring schools into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, to build new intermediate and middle schools and a new swimming pool, and to upgrade athletic fields at Banning High School.

The Mount San Jacinto district’s bond is intended for new campuses in Banning and Wildomar and for renovations of existing buildings.

“We’re never going to compromise on the quality instruction our students get,” said Mark Zacovic, president of Mount San Jacinto Community College. “But if we can’t keep up with the growing demand in this area, we’re going to end up saying ‘no’ to incoming students.”

The 1,700-square-mile district is expected to have 50,000 students by 2020.

If both school bonds pass, property owners would be taxed up to $80 more per $100,000 of assessed value. The hospital bond will cost property owners about $67 more annually on a $250,000 home.

“We feel strongly that as a whole, all of us are paying our fair share of taxes,” Mann said. “A lot of it is the byproduct of the tremendous growth that’s happening here.

In the last four years, Banning area voters have passed a $10 million school bond for a new high school gymnasium and a $108 million hospital bond to add a helipad and emergency rooms at San Gorgonio Memorial Hospital.

With only $500 in the war chest, Mann believes the association can defeat both school bonds. After June, members plan to reconvene and start planning for any bonds or tax-raising attempts in San Bernardino or Riverside counties that could appear on the November ballot.