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Hancock College administrators are exploring the possibility of presenting district voters with a new bond measure during the 2018 November election, in hopes of financing additional construction and improvement projects left unfinished by Measure I.

The discussion comes more than a decade after Measure I -- a $180 million construction, renovation and modernization bond -- was approved by district voters in 2006.

Approximately $150 million from the bond was used to complete ambitious construction projects (like the college's Public Safety Training Complex or Industrial Technology Building) and upgrade existing fixtures, with roughly $34.8 million in bond authorization left over. Administrators note that additional projects have yet to be completed, despite the significant investment, and that sources of additional construction funding are limited.

"What we need today from you is a sense for you that it's worth our while to start laying some groundwork for this [bond measure,]" Kevin Walthers, Hancock College president, told the district's board of trustees during the Jan. 16 special board meeting.

"We would not anticipate getting any state funding for new projects," he added. "[We're] in line and will probably be there for a while. Any new project we would do would be through our own bonds."

The district's bonding capacity is limited to 2.5 percent of its total assessed value minus any outstanding bonds, as defined by California Education Code. With a current valuation of $26.3 billion and approximately $222 million in outstanding bonds, Hancock College retains $434 million in bonding capacity, but, due to limitations imposed by Proposition 39, the district would not be authorized to do so.

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Instead, the district is exploring three possibilities for bonds that could result in $34 to $120 million in additional bond authorization. Though administrators have yet to identify and prioritize future facility needs, Eliseo "Cheo" Munoz, head athletic trainer in the Athletics Department, spoke to the need for facilities improvements in the Athletics building.

"The water doesn't work very well. The tiles are falling apart. We have inadequate air-conditioning and ventilation and have no true sunlight," he said, advising trustees to visit the building during instructional time to witness its issues. "Our building needs some love, just like every other building on campus."

While trustees did not make a decision to support or put forth a bond measure in November, Area 2 Trustee Dan Hilker was hesitant to offer his support.

"I'm not opposed [new] buildings, but I'm not entirely on board [putting forth] a bond," he said. "I think that's too many times to piggybank on the taxpayers in this county. If we could pay for it ourselves, I think we should."

Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga

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