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By Collin Breaux

A proposed bond measure that would have funded facility upgrades for Dana Hills High School will not go on the General Election ballot this November following a 3-3 split vote by the Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees on Wednesday, June 15.

District officials had considered placing the measure on the ballot, allowing Dana Point voters to decide whether to levy taxes on property owners so buildings at Dana Hills High—which opened in 1973—could be updated to match state seismic safety standards.

The state does not provide funding for school facility needs, necessitating the use of bonds and other fiscal sources.

Trustees Gila Jones, Judy Bullockus, and Lisa Davis voted no on Wednesday night. Board President Martha McNicholas and Trustees Amy Hanacek and Krista Castellanos voted yes.

The seat for Area 2, which covers Ladera Ranch and portions of San Juan Capistrano, is vacant after former Trustee Pamela Braunstein resigned earlier this year. Braunstein, in her resignation, cited safety concerns that stemmed from harassment over her support for pandemic-related health measures.

A special election to fill the seat will be held in November.

Recent polling showed the proposed bond measure did not get enough support to meet a required voter threshold of 55%. Other bond measures proposed over recent years have also failed to garner enough voter support.

Trustees on Wednesday night were presented with two potential bond measures to consider—one that proposed a $34 tax levy for $100,000 of assessed property value or another to levy $20 per $100,000 of assessed value.

The $20 option was estimated to generate $98 million that would have partially funded the renovations planned at Dana Hills High. The $34 option was projected to give the district about $171 million to fully fund desired renovations at the high school.

The trustees took up the vote for the $34 tax levy.

While Jones said she’d like to see a bond get passed, she didn’t believe this was the time to put a measure on the ballot.

“I will vote for it another time. I cannot vote for it to go on the November ballot,” Jones said. “I will vote for it at the next possible opportunity. It has not polled high enough to pass—certainly not at the $34 per $100,000 level. I wish it would, and I would vote for it.”

Previous polling has “always told us the truth,” and election results for school bond measures have never been better than prior poll data, Jones added.

Bullockus and Davis said they agreed with Jones, noting the tough sell for a bond amid the current economic conditions and high inflation.

Expressing her support for the bond measure, McNicholas said the school district currently can’t “even keep the air conditioning working” at Dana Hills High.

“I really think we need to let the voters decide whether they want to pass this or not,” McNicholas said. “I think we need to get it out there. I think we have an enthusiastic community that will help us do better than our previous polling numbers. I think we are in a liability situation with the seismic (conditions). We can’t say, ‘No, we aren’t going to do anything.’ We really have to do this.”

Dana Hills High students and parents at the meeting spoke in favor of a bond measure, saying they have to deal with old facilities with chipped paint and mold in portable classrooms. Supporters of the bond also said schools in other neighboring districts have adequate facilities after instituting bond measures.

“We’ll figure out another way,” McNicholas said. “I’m sorry.”

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com.     

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