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Education

Ramona Voters Say 'No' to School Bond

Ramona Unified School District failed to get voters' approval for Prop. Q, a $40 million dollar school improvement bond. Superintendent Robert Graeff said Prop. Q’s flop will hurt students in the classroom.

Prop. Q lost 54 to 45 percent, and became another in a long line of Ramona school bond failures. Ramona has never passed a school improvement bond, according to the district.

Prop. Q would have allotted $32 million to pay off a loan the district took out 10 years ago. Ironically, the district took the loan out because it couldn't get an earlier bond measure passed. The remaining $8 million was going to be used to upgrade the district's 10 school sites.

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Superintendent Graeff said the loan is now due, and the district must spend $2 million of its $43 million dollar annual budget to pay off the decade-old loan.

"So the money we use to pay for buses, and pay salaries, and pay for employees, and buy books and supplies," Graeff said, "we're going to devote a pretty hefty chunk of that to pay off these payments."

Graeff said the only way schools get built or modernized is through bonds. According to Graeff, all the new schools in San Diego County were made possible because of voter-approved bond measures.

"All of those school construction projects are all from school bonds, period, end of story," Graeff said. "There isn’t another way to do it."

School construction can be cripplingly expensive. A new elemengtary school can cost $40 million and a new high school can cost upwards of $100 million dollars, according to Graeff. He said it hasn't been possible for schools to use general fund money for construction since Prop. 13 passed in 1978.

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"You don't have that sitting in your budget — that’s crazy," Graeff said.

Graeff said his district will have to start making payments on the loan and they'll do their best to figure out a way to get by, but it won't be pretty.

"In the meantime the payment for our other loans are ongoing and we've got to find funds for that," Graeff said, "That’s going to be ugly."

The earliest Graeff expects to get yet another Ramona Unified School District bond measure on the ballot is in two years.