TUSD Bond Measures T and U Take Center Stage at Community Meeting

T high schoolA meeting to debate the pros and cons of the proposed bond measures T and U that will be voted on this November drew a crowd of civic leaders and concerned residents to the Torrance Historical Society Museum late Thursday evening.  Former Mayor Frank Scotto provided the argument for the school bonds while Rick Marshall, a current candidate for the Board of Equalization, delivered an argument against the measures.

Measure T is a $144 Million bond that will improve school security systems, upgrade classrooms and science and computer labs, add new STEM courses, renovate auxiliary gyms, and make energy efficiency improvements.  Measure U is a $50 Million bond that will provide an aquatic center, add multi-purpose gyms at middle schools, and renovate facilities and playgrounds.  Together the bonds represent about $30 per year in property taxes for every $100K of assessed home value.

Scotto reiterated that people come to live in Torrance for the safe community and good schools and expressed his belief that the community should finish what it started when it passed bond measures Y and Z.  He confessed that as a Republican he is generally the last person that would ask for more taxes but said he believed in the bond measures as he thought of them as a good investment for the community as quality schools will help to maintain high property values that benefit all residents.

The former Mayor acknowledged that the aquatic center with its hefty $15 Million price tag has become a target for those opposing the bonds.  Part of the consternation is due to the lack of details about the proposed facility and the yet to be determined location for the pool. Current plans are to have an Olympic sized pool with stadium seating and an open roof. It will be made available to the general public, but high school swim and water polo teams will have priority use. Local schools currently use the outdated Plunge for swimming activities.

The question was raised whether the project could include more family friendly amenities such as slides and splash pads for younger children in addition to the pool. Those additions are not currently in the plans, but they are suggestions that could be raised at future community meetings should the bond measure be approved.

As for the location, no funds are included in the bond measure to acquire property for the project necessitating that it be built on City or TUSD property. According to Scotto, utilizing City property for the estimated 10 acre site might allow the City to help with maintenance costs and could lead to the City eventually assuming control of the facility. He commented that he didn’t want to see SCROC close, but suggested that if it did that the SCROC site could be a possible home for the Aquatic Center due to its central location.

To argue against the measures, Rick Marshall stated that increased taxes are an impediment to economic growth and job creation. In defense of that assertion, he quoted a recently released book entitled “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of States.” The book claims that California has tax rates that are roughly 65 percent higher than are Texas’s tax rates and overall tax revenue that is 25 higher. Yet according to the book, “Texas grows faster, employs more people, and attracts more residents. Texas also has better roads, police protection, fire protection, schools, and prison facilities, as well as less poverty and less need for welfare workers.”

Marshall was also critical of utilizing borrowed money for many of the projects included in the bond measures and suggested that the taxpayers would get better value for their money if the School District used the General Fund to pay for such measures. He expressed concern that interest payments on the bonds often results in the taxpayers paying two or three times as much.

Marshall also stated that the 2010 census indicated that Torrance has an aging population with a decrease in the number of kids attending Torrance schools. Marshall used that statistic to suggest that TUSD could reduce the number of schools and facilities in the district and possibly sell the property as a way to raise the money for some of the projects included in the bond measures. Mark Steffen, a TUSD Board Member in attendance, acknowledged that the District currently relies on about 3,000 kids coming from outside Torrance to fill out its 25,000 enrollment figures, but claimed that argument was a red herring as the kids from outside Torrance bring with them needed state funding.

TUSD has formed a committee comprising of community leaders like former Mayor Scotto and head of the Torrance PTA Council Janet Tajii to spearhead a campaign in support of the bond measures. To help raise awareness, the Committee asked PTA organizations at each school to voice their support and provide a suggested donation of $500. Residents wanting lawn signs, pamphlets, or other materials can contact TUSD or their local schools for more information.

At the conclusion of the meeting, one resident seemed to capture the mood in the room when he commented that he did not like taxes, but that sometimes you just have to suck it up and bite the bullet for the good of the community. Whether the rest of the community agrees with that sentiment remains to be seen.

8 comments

  • Torrance Resident

    How can the schools propose a $15 million pool when all the Torrance schools my children attended and still attend don’t have toilet paper or soap in their bathrooms. Classes barely have copy/printing paper and teachers have to entice students with extra credit points to acquire more paper. But the most important project is a $15 million pool!!! Where are the funds coming from for the maintenance of this new pool are they part of the bond or do we have to pass another one? Or is this another scheme for the city to unload their pool facility duties onto the school district?

  • Don Lee

    This is why the community has a option with two bonds. Measure T deals with School Safety, Technology (the District will lease the technology every 5 years for the life of the Bond so its always current) and completing the projects that were not included in Measures Y and Z that was passed in 2008. Measure U, a completely different Bond, deals with projects that benefit the community and the schools such as the Pool, indoor gyms for the Middle Schools, and playground equipment at the School Sites. The City and TUSD have a joint use agreement that will allow both organizations to use these facilities for a board range of community uses such as the City’s youth sports programs and just open swim time at the pool. I hope this helps everyone understand the bonds a little better.

    • Anonymous

      Under what current measure Mr Lee is soap and toilet paper. Please go visit some of schools especially high schools restrooms.

  • Thank you Mr. Lee for your insight and for drawing that distinction between the two bond measures. My one commentary would be that as a taxpayer it often feels like we don’t get enough bang for our buck. Check out the links below and see what a smaller community than Torrance was able to do with a $39M bond. They got a breathtakingly awesome facility with a stadium seating olympic size lap pool plus indoor and outdoor wading pools, cool slides, cliff jumping, lazy river, complete gym, several full size b-ball courts, raquetball, skate park, child center with indoor playground, senior citizens center, game rooms, party rooms, etc, etc, etc. I mean really the facility is amazing. There is something for everyone. That facility is also sure to generate revenue for years to come that will eventually pay for itself and then some. Here in Torrance it takes $50M to get one pool, a few b-ball courts, and some new playgrounds. How awesome would it be if we could do something like what Provo did! Every Torrance taxpayer should look at what Provo was able to do with less money and at least ask the question why can’t we do that here.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiSqbfFqoMs

    http://www.provo.org/community/recreation-center

  • Anonymous

    Wow, I’m not getting my hopes up to get anything close to what Provo got.

  • Torrance Parent Supports T and U

    I moved my family to Torrance because of the schools and pay my property taxes happily. Yes, Torrance has an aging population, but guess who moves in when the aged move on? Families! My little part of a neighborhood has 20+ elementary age children when just 5 years ago, it had only 2. Strong schools improve property values for everyone. A rising tide lifts all boats.
    Tustin Unified in OC has done something very similar and the results have been wildly successful.

  • Anonymous

    There is so much wasteful spending with no accountability. TUSD keeps asking for more money.

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