Kyle Martin is a freelance reporter.
Students and faculty of Gavilan College—along with the rest of San Benito County’s constituents—will have another midterm to prepare for this fall: the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
With those elections comes a vote on Measure X, the proposed $248 million Gavilan College bond, which will require 55 percent voter approval in order to pass. The bond proposes authorizing funding improvements to Gavilan College facilities and programs. Funding for the bond would be generated by an increase in Gavilan College district homeowner property taxes, levied at an estimated maximum of $25 per $100,000 of assessed property value. The community college district spans San Benito County and part of Santa Clara County.
Measure X, known as the Affordable Education, Job Transfer, Job Training, College Transfer, and Veteran Support Measure, has sparked controversy among some San Benito voters. Before Measure E was approved in 2004, voters were given the impression that a Gavilan College campus would be built in San Benito County. It wasn’t.
“Top priority beginning in 2019 is beginning to build the San Benito Center,” according to an Oct. 8 press release from Gavilan College. “The process of identifying, buying and gaining approval to build in San Benito County was a 10-year process. The Gavilan campus in Hollister will become the educational heart of the expanding Hollister municipal area.”
According to the press release, Gavilan College is planning to allocate nearly $52 million from 2019 through 2021 to build “the first of several permanent structures establishing the San Benito Center Campus." It is expected to include a 33,000-square-foot multipurpose building with labs, classrooms, food options and more. It is unclear if those funds will be enough to complete the project, or when the new campus building will open.
“It’s like: ‘Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me,’” said Hollister Mayor and Gavilan alumnus Ignacio Velazquez. “Unfortunately, we got duped.”
Velazquez says he does not support Measure X because he sees it as too “vague.” He said if the measure passes, “I feel again we’ll be giving money away to their new campus in Morgan Hill.” The measure also lists a wide array of building repairs and improvements for the Gilroy campus.
Nolan Golden, president of the Associated Students of Gavilan College, conveyed the group’s sentiments regarding the mayor’s non-support of the measure.
“His campaign slogan for his re-election is ‘Moving Hollister Forward,’” Golden said of Velazquez.
But, Golden said, “by not supporting Measure X, in terms of higher education in Hollister, we wouldn’t be moving forward at all, in contrast we’d be holding our community back.”
Golden spoke in support of Gavilan College and Measure X, assured that its language is detailed enough for voters to make a decision on it. Golden offered the university’s facilities master plan and priorities list, as well as the text of the measure in full, as specific sources of information.
“Sure it may sound a little vague, but with a little research that we as officials have the responsibility to do, you can really know where that money is going,” Referring to the Gilroy campus, Golden noted, “our infrastructure is desperately in need of some renovations to be able to keep up with the rigorous nature of community colleges in Silicon Valley.”
Aromas resident and San Benito County Democrat Wayne Norton, a critic of Measure X, said he’s “leaning towards no.” Norton also helps with the San Benito County Supervisor Robert Rivas’ campaign for 30th District State Assembly.
“I’m not sure how much I really trust the Gavilan Board to do what they say they’re going to do with that money,” Norton said.
Kathleen Rose, superintendent and president of Gavilan College, points those who don’t support Measure X to the university’s educational and master plans, and to the students of Gavilan.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunities to spend a lot of group time and one-on-one time with anyone who may say no, and the first thing I’d say to those folks is ‘let me introduce you to one of our students,” Rose said. “Talk to our students who’ve been going and taking classes in the Briggs building for the last 20 years, for example. And let’s talk about really what is best for our students, what students need moving forward. We know that the population in Hollister specifically needs higher education. And one of the things that Gavilan College in Hollister has not been able to do is offer lab classes, for example.”
She said on top of Gavilan’s promises to build a new Hollister campus, Gavilan has begun bridging the gap between the college’s Gilroy campus and Hollister through a new partnership with San Benito High School, which she said now allows her students to take some lab classes at the high school.
Rose again emphasized the college’s plans for making a Hollister campus a priority, but noted that voting no on Measure X would go against Gavilan students’ wishes.
“So for the people who say no, I point them to our qualitative and quantitative evidence that [shows] students really feel otherwise,” Rose said. “Students need access. They need to be able to get to where higher education occurs.”
At an Oct. 15 Hollister City Council meeting, Rose gave a presentation on Measure X. The 2018 ballot measure is the third time in 100 years the district has asked for a bond, Rose said, while other community colleges do it more frequently. The first bond, $3.4 million with a matching $1.8 million bond, was in 1964 which built the Gilroy Campus and then in 2004 with Measure E for $108 million.
If Measure X passes, the 33,000-square-foot first-phase campus would be located on the corner of Fairview Road and Airline Highway.
Rose says Gavilan College has almost $400 million worth of projects that are required for the college to remain competitive with the educational needs of the community through 2030.
The other projects and total costs are:
- Central Plant/Water Treatment: $5.9 million. It would be located at the Gilroy campus. Rose said there are blackouts caused by accidents on Highway 101, which forces them to send students home.
- STEM Center: $19.7 million. Rose said Gavilan received three federal grants for the center it would be located at the Gilroy campus.
- Library/Learning Resource Center: $18.9 million. The existing building would be demolished. Rose said it’s a 50-year-old building that cannot be modernized.
- Modular building at Coyote Valley campus: $12.8 million to construct two-story building for computer science labs and other classrooms.
- Visual and Performing Arts: $61.7 million. The building would be in a new location, but still on the Gilroy campus.
- Repurpose art building: $2.8 million.
- Student services: $48.6 million.
- Kinesiology & athletic fields: $29.3 million.
- Administrative services: $11.3 million.
- Site improvements: $9.3 million.
- Student Center remodel: $2.1 million.
- Replace water supply system: $6.2 million.