What’s up with Measure M?
Shawn M. Gordon
City Council Candidate for Rancho Santa Margarita
September 28, 2016

If you haven’t heard yet, Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) has put a near $1 billion measure on the ballot that will cost about $2 billion to repay over 25 years. It is being promoted as being absolutely critical or the schools will fall apart. They claim they have a detailed plan, so I took the time to look at what they call their detailed plan, let’s break the whole thing down by school, the cost and the items, that they are saying. To my mind, the way to do this is to break down and price each item and prioritize by urgency, like “someone will die in 3 weeks if we don’t do this” to “this would be super nice to have but isn’t necessary”. CUSD has not done this however. What’s worse is that schools that were built without Mello-Roos money that are outside of our area, are going to get our money (where we have paid MR for our schools) when the local residents never paid for their schools to begin with.

It is a very common tactic with groups like CUSD to scare parents into thinking they better come up with this money ASAP or something tragic will happen to their children. It is the most despicable form of emotional manipulation, but they use it year after year because it works. You wonder how they justified the nearly $70 Million they spent on their new offices if all this work was so critical. As loving parents, we care about our kids and if someone says they need something, we want to give it to them. Measure M is a bad thing by any objective measure, please take the time to review this information and other information that is publicly available.

This is a local issue by school and the residents they serve and should be handled as such. When you have a big pot of money that goes through a lot of hands, that pot pretty much disappears before it reaches its destination. Take a look at The Real CUSD for a lot of bullet point issues on the measure. I’m going to look at what CUSD claims is so urgent that they need a billion dollars.

Keep in mind, there is no hard budget, all this money could be spent on a single school, there is no control. The tax will apply to homes, boats, everything, and there is no accountability. CUSD has had a lot of problems with questionable activity and bookkeeping over the years that is well documented, but I’ll be writing another piece for that later. Here in Rancho Santa Margarita, our schools are new, we’re paying for them with Mello Roos and Measure A already. It isn’t right that we be saddled with decades of debt for schools in other districts, often times when the residents of those cities never paid for the facilities to begin with.

The following spreadsheet will give you a high level view of what I’m talking about. This data is taken direct from the CUSD page and just summarized down here this is compared to the data that is presented on this document, also on their site here
Pretty much everything includes a line of “Comprehensive Modernization” as well as “Library Expansion”. I would think those two things together could be merged so that the library is electronic books they can check out, so you wouldn’t need an expansion for example.. The links in the spreadsheet will take you directly to their PDF files so you can see the details. There is no distinction between critical and non-critical work as I mentioned in my opening. Also ask yourself. Where is the lottery money? Where is the money from our high property taxes going? It has been redirected. Why isn’t CUSD pursuing legal action against the state to recover our funds instead of filing lawsuits against the Mayors that oppose it? Read the letter here.