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Burbank Leader

Backers of Burbank school bond ramp up their campaign

By Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com

3:14 PM PST, February 8, 2013

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With less than a month to go, the campaign is in full swing for the $110-million Measure S school bond.

Leading the effort is former Mayor Marsha Ramos, who is overseeing the campaign, both in terms of the operation and as an ambassador to the community.

Of 1,000 yard signs Ramos ordered that call for support of the bond, Ramos said all but 20 had been picked up by this week, most of them destined for Burbank lawns.

By state law, school bonds can’t be approved through a mail-in ballot, which is the only way residents can vote in the Burbank election. So the bond was placed on the March 5 ballot to coincide with a Los Angeles Community College District primary election, of which Burbank is a part.

After years of tumultuous state budget cuts, school officials say the bond would fund overdue upgrades in technology, plumbing, asphalt and roofs. Other changes could see solar panels installed to save on energy costs.

If 55% of voters approve the bond, property taxes would be $55 per $100,000 of assessed value through 2038, according to district officials.

Property owners currently pay a $50 tax per $100,000 of assessed value on the bond voters approved in 1997, which will be paid off in 2027, according to Christine Statton, assistant superintendent of administrative services.

Opponents say the long-term costs to the district in paying off the interest — the rates of which won’t be fully known until the bonds are issued — are too high and create too large a financial risk.

But supporters contend the bond is crucial for maintaining aging infrastructure, while at the same time investing in classroom upgrades — something the district has little to no money for on its own.

In 2013-14, Burbank schools could face a $6-million structural deficit. A primary maintenance account known as “Fund 40” is projected to dwindle to about $1 million dollars by the end of this year, according to the district.

“When you’re taking money from the general fund…it’s in direct competition with the district’s mission to educate kids,” said school board president Larry Applebaum, who has momentarily shelved his own school board campaign in favor of Measure S.

At night, Applebaum knocks on Burbank doors to talk with voters.

“From my perspective, the lack of passage will lead to dipping into precious dollars. That’s the message,” Applebaum said.

Ramos also noted the correlation between desirable schools and higher home values.

The district’s main stakeholders have also backed the bond with pledges to get out the vote for what is typically a little known ballot.

Lori Adams — president of the Burbank Teachers Assn., which endorsed the bond this week — said Measure S would enable the district to use its General Fund to restore programs that have suffered under the weight of prolonged budget cuts.

Burbank PTA Council President Barbara Miller took 500 signs and signed up for phone banking.

This week, she also helped station PTA members on school sidewalks to speak with parents during open houses.

“I told everyone — it’s time to rally the troops,” Miller said.

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan