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Voters say no to Measure J
District regrouping after bond defeat
Students in the Porterville Unified School District will need to keep waiting before they can see facility improvements at local schools, or a new stadium, theater or 21st-century learning tools — all resulting from the failure of Measure J, a $90 million general obligation bond measure to help finance such projects defeated at the ballots Tuesday.
Measure J would have cost homeowners $45 per 100,000 assessed valuation annually and qualified the district to access $34 million of matching state funds. Had it passed, it would have been used to replace old, portable, leaking classrooms, addressed the district’s air conditioning problems, provided updated athletic facilities, including a new stadium and pool, and be instrumental in the construction of a new Pathway military-style school.
As of Tuesday’s count, Measure J had 6,406 No votes, or 51.38%, and 6,062 Yes, or 48.62%.
There is a faint tinge of hope as the county has approximately 50,000 ballots still to count, but it is unlikely the district can reach the 55% approval threshold needed for passage.
“I think everyone is pretty disappointed that it did not go through,” said PUSD Superintendent John Snavely. “We need to move forward as best we can.”
A discussion of what to do next needs to be added to a board agenda, Snavely said.
“We need to try to assess the condition of our facility and decide whether its an effort to go back out for this. The need is still there.”
In the meantime, there will be no additional cuts, he said.
“It is my hope that this issue will again be addressed in the near future,” said MHS Principal Richard Smithey. “We are all disappointed, but remain optimistic.”
The district can not continue to neglect the depreciative facilities and the lack of 21st-century tools the students require for success beyond high school, Smithey said.
“I believe that a strong school is built by a strong community, and as a community we all have a responsibility to educate our students in an environment where students are engaged and stimulated,” Smithey said. “It’s sad. We go to other schools and see what bond measures have done for other schools. You can’t help but ask, why not our kids? Why can’t they have the same things other districts have? It’s very sad. There is a big difference in what others have.”
Smithey also touched on Prop. 30, saying he is happy to see that it passed.
“It would have been a major deterrent to educating our students in the state of California,” Smithey said. “Prop. 30 was huge. That would have been devastating to all our schools had it not passed.”
Local resident John Hardin, who has been against Measure J from the onset, said his phone has been ringing off the hook with thanks from supporters.
“However, I am not celebrating today. This district’s students and teachers have many needs that remain unaddressed,” Hardin said. “However, clearly the community sent a strong message that a $90 million dollar new tax with no concrete plans was not the answer.”
According to Hardin, the district policies defeated the bond measure, not him.
Once a huge district supporter, having raised close to $100,000 for Monache’s athletic program, volunteering in youth programs and donating to student activities, he began questioning policies due to athletic cutbacks.
Hardin said he believes the bullying and arrogant nature of a few long-time board members cost them the election.
“My message has been the same from day one; put the students and teachers needs ahead of the trustee’s needs,” he said.
Hardin complimented Board Members David DePaoli and Lillian Durbin for not accepting district perks.
“I hope the district looks in the mirror and uses this defeat as a wake-up call,” Hardin said. “Our hope is that Porterville Unified changes direction and truly puts students and teachers needs ahead of the needs of administrators and board members.”
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045. Follow her on Twitter @Avila_recorder.