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Injunction on Measure O: RUSD and RAIT speak out

After the injunction on Measure O, RUSD defends its use of bond funds, while RAIT alleges a ‘bait-and-switch’ in the presentation of Measure O to the community.

Riverside Unified School District office on 14th Street (Camille Grochowski/Gazette)

Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) and Riversiders Against Increased Taxes (RAIT) have made statements about the civil injunction filed on July 14, 2023.

Litigation centers on the 2016 bond Measure O meant for school repairs and upgrades. The allegations in the injunction claim the misuse of $110 million in bond funds to construct four new schools. Proposition 39 serves as the injunction’s foundation. It mandates bond funds to be for listed purposes.

RUSD Director of Public Information and Communications Diana Meza released a statement acknowledging the injunction. RUSD will “respond to litigation in due course, but will not comment further on the matter while litigation is ongoing.”

Meza maintains Measure O’s purpose. “The bond was designed to upgrade and improve aging RUSD campuses and classrooms, including building new school facilities.”

April Glatzel, a RAIT spokesperson, outlined the grievances with RUSD’s use of Measure O funds, “For years, District officials have ignored near-constant complaints by members of the general public that Measure O was sold prior to its passage as fixing many of the existing problems at RUSD’s aging schools.”

RAIT claims RUSD intentionally used a “bait-and-switch scheme” in the presentation of Measure O to the community. “Unfortunately though, our tone-deaf Board, in the face of historic and forecasted declining enrollment, decided to use our money for their pet projects to appease their political allies. It’s a classic bait-and-switch scheme. We could serve far more students renovating most of our existing schools than building four new ones,” Glatzel stated.

RAIT alleges new schools are absent from promotional communications. They allege the same for the ballot proposition. “Nowhere in this extensive list, in any propaganda sent to parents by the District about the measure, nor in the ballot proposition itself did the District inform the public of its desire to build entirely new schools,” Glatzel continued.

RAIT highlights RUSD’s project list, the Long Range Facilities Master Plan (LRFMP), created as required by Proposition 39 and published in January 2016. Page nine states what the document is and is not.

The LRFMP is the following:

  • Forms guidelines for facility decisions both on existing and future sites, including schools, support centers, and undeveloped parcels.
  • It presents a 15 to 20-year vision for RUSD’s facilities’ future.
  • It considers an instructional, technological, demographic, and facility upkeep perspective district-wide.
  • It takes into consideration buildings, grounds, technology, furniture, and equipment.
  • It serves as a budgeting tool for facility improvement-related decisions.
  • Stakeholders from the site, District, and community provide conscientious input to generate a conceptual “Idea Board.” It is easy to edit, adapt, and change.

The LRFMP is not the following:

  • The document grounds itself in attainable planning, not a “wish list.”
  • It is not an exhaustive survey of existing conditions. Nor is an outline of repair work orders, but rather a “needs assessment.”
  • The design of specific remedies and advancement will come later; it is not a “design solution.”
  • It does not rank projects or lay out a set of steps to achieve them all, but it serves as an “implementation plan.”
  • The document speaks to budgets/costs rather than funding sources; it is not a “funding document.”

The document lacks explicit language on constructing new schools; this is RAIT’s primary concern with the LRFMP.

The ballot of Measure O presented a project list promising to “upgrade and improve aging RUSD campuses and classrooms.” A project list was visible on the ballot. It included five items:

  1. Upgrade or replace aging school infrastructure, classrooms, and school buildings.
  2. Modernize school facilities to improve access for students with disabilities.
  3. Retrofit older buildings so they are earthquake safe.
  4. Provide classrooms and labs for career and technical education classes so students are prepared for college and good-paying jobs in fields like health science, engineering, technology, robotics, and the skilled trades.
  5. Update instructional technology in the classroom for improved student learning in core subjects like reading, math, science, and technology.

Yet, the ballot goes on to include “acquire land; construct new schools.”

The statement provided by Meza also expresses the District’s appreciation for the community. “The Riverside Unified School District is grateful to our community for investing in our students and voting to pass the Measure O Bond in 2016 by more than two-thirds of voters.”

RUSD reaffirms its commitment to oversight and transparency in its statement. The Citizens Bond Oversight Committee (CBOC) activity is available online. Committee members, meeting resources, and recordings are public.

“Since the passage of Measure O, the District has been diligently managing these tax dollars through the formation of the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee,” Meza said, “To date, 11 schools have been completed, 6 schools are currently being modernized and four schools are in the planning stages, including Casa Blanca Elementary.”

The next CBOC meeting will be at the district office on August 17 at 5:00 PM. All meetings are open to the public.