YCCD panel bond report released

A CliffsNotes version of Measure E spending is available to the public.

The group responsible for overseeing how Modesto Junior College, Columbia College and Yosemite Community College District leaders spend $326 million in school bond revenue released its annual report last week.

At four pages, covering millions of dollars in planning, architecture and construction bills, the report is a condensed account of where money is going, said Don Bunce, MJC political science student and a member of the oversight committee.

In nearly three years, $25.7 million has been spent with relatively few projects breaking ground. Many projects are in the early design phase. Several MJC and Columbia staff and community members have complained of the slow progress.

Voters approved Measure E in November 2004 to renovate existing buildings and build new ones. Columbia has seen a new bus loop while construction continues on MJC's auditorium at College and Stoddard avenues.

The report includes a brief, detailed description and the status of each construction job, said Duke York, committee chairman.

In 2008, MJC's auditorium should reopen, and construction will start on Columbia's child development center, Madrone welding and automotive building, and public safety center.

When the approval threshold for school bonds was lowered from a two-thirds major- ity to 55 percent, state law required an oversight committee, annual report and annual audits. The 2006-07 audit isn't in, but the 2005-06 audit showed that the district was in compliance with state financial requirements.

Oversight also is necessary because residents repay bonds through increased prop- erty taxes.

The district's Citizens Bond Oversight Committee has 14 volunteer members representing students, taxpayers, businesses and senior citizens, and meets every three months. While the group is only advisory, Bunce said, members keep administrators on their toes.

"We don't have the authority to reallocate funds, but we ask the questions that need to be asked, and the project managers are required to answer them," he said.

York added that the committee is strictly about oversight.

"We make sure money gets spent in the right location. It's a safeguard committee created when the bond was passed to make sure nothing gets spent where it's not supposed to be spent."

The next oversight committee meeting is Jan. 8. Meetings are open to the public.

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at mhatfield@modbee.com or 578-2339.

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