Sierra College’s Measure E fails to pass
After watching their $394-million bond issue fail, backers of Measure E insist they will return to the voters to ask their help in rebuilding and expanding the five-campus Sierra Community College system.
Measure E was failing in Nevada, Placer, Sacramento and El Dorado counties late Tuesday, falling far short of meeting a 55-percent threshold for passage in all four counties.
The strongest support for the ballot measure came from Nevada County, where 54.4 percent of voters approved the measure. Just 47 percent of voters in Placer County favored it. Sacramento and El Dorado counties also rejected the measure, with 47 and 50 percent in favor, respectively, according to results late Tuesday.
Placer County is home to Sierra College’s oldest and largest campus in Rocklin.
Nevertheless, proponents of the bond for the 42-year-old college system vowed to come to the voters again – in a more favorable economic climate – with a bond they feel is needed for the rapidly growing 21,000-student district.
“The question is when, not if, because we are in desperate need, and the needs won’t take care of themselves,” said Neal Allbee, dean of instruction for the 3,400-student Nevada County campus. “The district is in desperate need in fixing facilities in preparing for growth.”
Proponents of Measure E blamed the defeat on a ballot heavy with taxes, and not a lack of support. There was no organized opposition to the measure.
“I think we ran a good campaign,” said Lincoln City Council member Tom Cosgrove, Measure E’s campaign coordinator. “It’s not just in the district here, it’s throughout the state. It’s just a general tone … (the voters) will bail out the state, grudgingly, but that’s as far as they’re willing to go.”
While Measure E failed, voters passed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s multibillion-dollar state bailout measure, while shunning bonds for school construction and defeating a measure that would have allowed taxes to be passed by a 55 percent vote of the state Legislature.
Had it passed, Measure E would have provided for additional classrooms at the Nevada County campus, as well as expansion of a public-safety academy for future police and firefighters, an expanded nursing program ,and the creation of an arts facility.
Allbee said the state originally promised these additions when the Nevada County campus was first constructed in 1996, but the funds never materialized. The bonds would have paid for such expansion, he said.
Dan Castles, a co-chair for the Nevada County Measure E effort, said he’s not sure how the Nevada County campus, as well as a campus in Truckee, will prepare for an influx of students without the money for more classroom space.
Schwarzenegger is actively encouraging potential University of California and California State University students to complete their first two years of study at community colleges, and has added money to the budget to add classes.
Without the facilities, Castles said that will be hard to do locally.
“If we’re at capacity now, I don’t know what we’re going to do for the next decade,” he said.
Castles, like his colleagues, said he believes the college bond suffered from a lack of timing, not opposition or a failure to plan.
“I think it just speaks to the uncertainty of the California economy, and the financial climate we’re in,” he said. “The information (on the bond) was always out there.”
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