Bond Oversight Committee: College is in Full Compliance
College of the Canyons is in full compliance with legal requirements that mandate public oversight of the disbursement of bond revenues, the Measure C Citizens Oversight Committee has determined.
The oversight committee made its unanimous determination on Aug. 9 after reviewing the results of an independent audit. All of the findings from that December 2004 examination were favorable to the college and its handling of Measure C funds, said Sharlene Coleal, vice president of business services.
The committee will now send a letter affirming the college's compliance to the Santa Clarita Community College District Board of Trustees, which governs the district and its single college.
"We are very pleased that the college continues to be in compliance with respect to Measure C funds," said Sheldon Wigdor, chairman of the oversight committee. "Everyone should be excited about the Music Dance Building, which is the first of many projects Measure C will bring to the campus and the community."
Committee members witnessed firsthand one of the products of Measure C. Shortly after the group adjourned, the ribbon was officially cut at the new Music Dance Building, revealing a stunning 20,000-square-foot facility boasting state-of-the-art instruction, practice and performance areas.
The $8.5 million facility is the first new building to be funded entirely by Measure C.
The 11-member oversight committee was formed following voters' approval of Measure C, an $82.1 million bond measure designed to pay for much-needed construction of new facilities, renovation of the existing campus and creation of a permanent education center in the Canyon Country area. The measure attracted 68.03 percent voter approval in November 2001.
The college's careful management of Measure C funds has actually increased the bond measure's initial value, adding approximately $4.5 million via earned interest and a re-funding of a general-obligation bond issuance in 2002. The original $82.1 million value has now risen to $86.6 million.
Committee member Michael Berger noted that the additional $4.5 million in revenue adds significant value to the college's available construction funds. "We don't have $82 million. We actually have $86 million due to good management," Berger said. "That's huge."
Superintendent-President Dianne Van Hook expressed her appreciation to the committee for allowing construction projects to move forward in a timely and efficient manner. Adhering to an aggressive schedule benefits the community because delays typically translate into additional construction costs.
Some community college districts that passed similar bond measures four or five years ago have yet to build any facilities. "That means that by the time they get around to (construction), they're probably going to pay 60 to 70 percent more for that building," Van Hook said.
"We've gotten a lot more bang for our buck - literally," she added.
The schedule of expansion and renovation projects is extensive because of several key factors:
* The college has maintained an aggressive construction schedule and timed individual projects to take full advantage of maximum funding levels from the state;
* The college has added value to locally generated funds by leveraging varying levels of matching dollars from the state;
* The college received excellent AA and AA- credit ratings from Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings, respectively;
* It's a great time to issue bonds because of low interest rates and high assessed property valuations in the Santa Clarita Valley.
The increase in state construction funds going to the college since Measure C was approved is striking. From 1994 through 2001, the college generated a respectable $40 million in state money for various construction projects. By comparison, since the passage of Measure C in late 2001, the college has nearly doubled that figure to $79.8 million.
Committee member Jill Harper commended the college's management team, adding: "We're all extremely proud of what's going on, and I think the community needs to know this."
In addition to the Music Dance Building, tangible signs of the benefits of Measure C are visible throughout the College of the Canyons campus. Construction has begun on the High-Tech Building, a 34,000-square-foot complex of classrooms, labs and offices that will be nestled between the Student Center and Physical Education Center. And, site preparation has
begun on the Science Laboratory Expansion, which will add 32,000 square feet to the existing Laboratory Building, one of the college's original facilities.
Other completed projects include the renovation of Cougar Stadium, where synthetic turf was installed on the playing field, the running track was resurfaced, and restroom facilities were upgraded; the expansion of the Vocational Technical Building, which added new manufacturing technology and welding areas, and the expansion of the college's warehouse, which nearly doubled its size.
Upcoming projects include the following:
Canyon Country Education Center - Final negotiations are under way to acquire property for this permanent education center, which will replace the current ACCESS centers in the Canyon Country Jo Anne Darcy Library and at Golden Valley High School. The center will open with 34 modular buildings purchased at a significant discount - 50 cents a square foot vs. the going rate of $100 per square foot - from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The decision to develop this comprehensive educational center was made to meet the demands of the Canyon Country area, where many College of the Canyons students reside and rapid growth is expected to continue.
Santa Clarita Valley University Center - The capital campaign to raise corporate and private donations for a permanent facility to house the University Center is being finalized. This building will house an assortment of public and private universities that are already offering advanced degrees on the College of the Canyons campus, as well as the William S. Hart Union High School District's Academy of the Canyons, which is currently housed in modular buildings on the college campus.
And, in a testament to the college's ability to maximize local dollars for the greatest benefit, four construction projects planned over the next five years will cost an estimated $61.2 million, yet only $13.1 million in local funds will be spent. The rest - $48.1 million - will come from the state.
The construction projects include an expansion of both the Library and the Media & Fine Arts Building, a new Administration & Student Services Building, and the first permanent building at the Canyon Country Education Center. Construction of the latter, envisioned as a 52,000-square-foot facility, could begin as early as 2007.
Matching funds from the state are not necessarily applied on a dollar-for-dollar basis. They follow a variety of formulas that consider such criteria as a college's level of enrollment growth, its capacity and load ratio, any changes in its assignable square-footage, and the projected population growth within the college district, among others.
California law requires that a citizens' oversight committee oversee the disbursement of bond funds, as well as ensure that they are not used for faculty or administrative salaries or other expenses.
The Measure C Citizens Oversight Committee was appointed and created on Jan. 23, 2002. Since then, it has met 10 times to review Measure C-funded projects and fulfill its oversight obligation.
Members are Kyle Baron, Becki Basham, Michael Berger, Rita Garasi, Jill Harper, Calvin Hedman, Mike Lebecki, Joe Robinson, Barbara Stearns-Cochran, Sheldon Wigdor and Anne Yang.
The public is always welcome to attend committee meetings. All past and upcoming meeting dates, as well as meeting agendas and approved minutes are posted on the committee's website, located at http://www.canyons.edu/info/news/mcoversight.html .