Ramona schools Superintendent Robert Graeff argued for a $66 million school bond Wednesday night, saying the district would suffer "significant hardship" without it.
At a voters forum held in Ramona High School's auditorium, Graeff noted that the district is the "only unified district in the county never to have passed a school bond."
Graeff spoke on Proposition R at the Sun Valley PTA-sponsored event Oct. 17. Graeff, who spoke as the Rescue Ramona Schools chair, said the school bond prop will help with the "basic, fundamental issues" the school district sees across the board: damaged pipes, damaged lockers, old playground equipment and other building concerns.
"We're convinced we have a whole lot of structural issues in our district," Graeff said. "We have... no modern efficiency whatsoever. We have a hard time paying for electricity we need; we have a hard time paying for electricty we have."
Proposition R is a $66 million general obligation bond program that would provide funds for building repairs as well as to repay monies the school district previously borrowed in 2004.
"We had a couple of schools that were almost uninhabitable a few years ago," Graeff said. "The district, after four failed school bonds... borrowed money to build the two new schools."
Ramona Community and Hanson Elementary were built with the loaned money, but Graeff said they have not yet been paid for.
With Proposition R, homeowners in the area will pay a property tax estimated to be approximately $60 per $100,000 of assessed valuation. Assess valuation is not market value.
According to Graeff, an architect firm walked every campus in the district and analyzed the needs of each school. The most important needs were prioritized and structured the school bond known as Proposition R.
"If the community passes that $66 million school bond, it will provide improvements for every school building in this community," Graeff said. "It will also provide aid for handicapped access for students with special needs."
Graeff said that the proposition has the support of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, an organization that Graeff said in most cases opposes school bonds.
"Our bond, they're actually endorsing and supporting and working with us to get it passed," he said. "We're very proud of that fact."
But Ramona resident Donald Gruneisen challenged this, suggesting that the SDCTA also supported Poway's school bond, Proposition C, which will be required to be paid back tenfold via capital appreciation bonds.
"Our school board ... has worked pretty hard to make sure that's not our program," Graeff said. "Our bond will be a general obligation bond—it's 25 years and approximately a 1-to-1 payback."
Gruneisen sent Patch a document as proof that the SDTCA did in fact support Proposition C, the Poway school bond. He also said he was critical of Proposition R and worried that the money made from it will go to salaries as opposed to school improvements.
The district is currently eligible to receive a total of $13.8 million in state-matching modernization and new construction funds for the schools. However, RUSD must provide a local match to receive these funds. If it passes, Prop. R would allow the district to qualify for the state matching funds.
Graeff said that if it doesn't pass, the healthy and safety issues will continue.
"It would be very challenging," Graeff said. "Plan B is to do it again."