Background: Since the year 2000, Prop 39, related statutes and countless bond measures across California have promised voters the appointment of “independent” citizens’ bond oversight committees (CBOCs) with authority to exercise “strict oversight” whenever bond approval is set at 55%, instead of 2/3 of voters. With $181 billion approved by voters to date under Prop 39, over 500 CBOCs now exist in California.
-- In practice, all too many CBOCs are neither independent nor capable of exercising meaningful oversight responsibilities. As one witness before the Little Hoover Commission put it in 2017, “The watchdog has no bite”. The commission has pulled no punches in calling for legislation to “update and overhaul the education code related to the "Strict Accountability in Local School Construction Bonds Act of 2000”-i.e., Prop 39.
-- It is long past time for California legislators to take action to fulfill promises of accountability and effective citizen oversight of billions of dollars of taxpayer funds now spent every year on school facilities.
CABOC Proposed Legislation
Over the past 18 months, CABOC's legislative committee has toiled to address these shortcomings. Our proposal aligns with the Little Hoover Commission’s recommended statutory changes to affirm the independence of CBOCs and bolster their effectiveness. This proposal is also consistent with overall principles found in Education Code 15274 namely that: “vigorous efforts are undertaken [to ensure] that bond measures are in strict conformity to the law.”
When implemented CABOC’s proposed changes will:
- Strengthen bond program audit requirements and expand the role of CBOCs in selecting and interacting with auditors.
- Require bond ballot language clearly refer to specific projects in the district’s facility master plan instead of highly generalized projects, such as “safety upgrades” or “technology improvements”.
- Make CBOC membership selection and appointment more transparent, open and merit-based.
Require districts provide sufficient budgets funded by bond funds to include independent legal counsel for the CBOC, train members and maintain a website to prominently display meeting agendas and reports so that CBOCs can fulfill their mission to report to the general public. ...
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