Oakland residents will vote on November 6 whether to allow the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) to issue $475 million in bonds to repair school facilities and start new projects. If voters approve Measure J, OUSD will begin planned projects at 11 schools in Oakland, including McClymonds High School and Foster Elementary, among other district-wide improvements. Projects range from replacing portable classrooms with permanent buildings to constructing community kitchens at school sites.
Measure J infographic created with easel.ly. View Measure J projects in a larger map
Measure J would be the fourth in a series of bond measures to be approved over the past 18 years. Bond measures allow institutions to borrow money and, with time, pay back the loaned amount, plus interest. The borrowed money is paid back using funds produced by tax levies on Oakland property owners (see graphic for Measure J tax amounts). The tax rates are not fixed, said OUSD director of public relations Troy Flint. Alameda County would set tax rates based on the actual repayment amount due each year.
Under the California Education Code, bond money may only be used to pay for facilities—“not people,” school board president Jody London said, adding that voters sometimes think bond money will be used for salaries.
Measure J would add to the $908 million borrowed in bond funds from three previous measures C, A and B, and approved by voters in 1994, 2000 and 2006, respectively. At a school board study session meeting on October 3, Associate Superintendent Tim White said most of that already-approved bond funding has been allocated, with $65 million from Measure B still being used to complete projects at schools like Chabot Elementary, Oakland High and Cox Elementary.
According to OUSD’s Facilities Master Plan adopted this May, the district still needs $1.5 billion to fulfill its goal to bring the 100 district facilities in the plan up to par.
“If we didn’t have the bond money, we wouldn’t be doing capital improvements in our school,” London said. “We know that when we do this work, people come to school. They want to come to shiny, new schools.”