2017-01-06 / Front Page

District staffing up for Measure X

SVUSD Committee will oversee $239M in expenditures
By Michael Aushenker

Simi Valley Unified School District is seeking seven to 12 residents to fill spots on its Measure X Independent Citizens Oversight Committee.

Measure X, which Simi residents passed Nov. 8 with 26,563 votes (or 64.6 percent of total votes), authorizes the district to sell $239 million in general obligation bonds over the next 10 years to upgrade SVUSD infrastructure. The measure, which will be paid off over 30 years, earmarks money for upgrades in buildings and technology at the district’s 28 aging campuses. The funds cannot be used for teacher or administrator salaries.

Among the applicants who have already applied to serve on the ICOC is Jenniffer Jones, a longtime paralegal in criminal and immigration law with a daughter in the fifth grade at Berylwood Elementary School. Jones has thorough knowledge of the school bond initiative after having headed the committee to draft Measure X last year.

“Whoever applies will be a part of the creation of the bylaws,” Jones said, adding that ICOC members will serve four-year terms.

While district officials are in charge of culling applicants and determining Measure X projects, the ICOC will be responsible for overseeing the money spent on each project and making sure the district stays on budget and in line with the intended use of the funds.

“The ICOC (members) are following the law,” Jones said. “They are making sure that (SVUSD officials) are not using the money to take trips to Tahiti or for salaries.”

Any Simi resident except for those employed by the school district or working as vendors with SVUSD can apply to sit on the committee.

A committee must be established before the district can access Measure X funds.

“The district is not looking at cashing out the first series of the Measure X Bond until May or June, providing us with the opportunity to develop a cohesive plan for the implementation of the Measure X,” SVUSD Associate Superintendent of Business and Facilities Ron Todo told the Simi Valley Acorn.

Jones said SVUSD should wrap up accepting applications by Jan. 31, at which point Todo and Superintendent Jason Peplinski will spend February through April evaluating the applications and interviewing prospective ICOC members before submitting candidates to the school board for final approval.

Todo added that the Jan. 31 date is a soft deadline: Applications trickling in after that will still be considered.

Last year, Jones joined the Measure X campaign after a February 2016 vote put the school bond on the November ballot. Todo had contacted Jones, who’d been politically active during the 2015 and 2016 closures of Simi Valley, Justin and Abraham Lincoln elementary schools, to serve on the Measure X committee after she voiced her interest in participating.

Jones wound up leading the 15-person committee despite her initial reluctance.

“We were all hesitant,” she said. “It was a tax-heavy ballot (following) a lot of negativity (from the community) with the school district.”

Nevertheless, Jones said, she was heartened by SVUSD’s movements in the right direction.

“The only reason why I chose to join the campaign is because of Jason (Peplinski) being our superintendent,” she said, additionally crediting school board members Dan White, Scott Blough and Bill Daniels. “Those three gentlemen are fiscally conservative and very meticulous, (so) I felt a great deal of confidence.”

The public is invited to attend SVUSD’s Jan. 12 bond workshop at 6:30 p.m. in the Floyd Binns Room of the Educational Services Center at 875 E. Cochran St. District administrators and school board members will outline their plan for rolling out Measure X and exchange ideas on their strategy.

To apply to become a member of the Measure X Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, visit www.simi.k12.ca.us/bond.

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