SRJC pushes $410 million bond measure

Santa Rosa Junior College has seen a lot of use over the past 96 years, which is why administrators are now asking voters to pass a new $410 million bond measure to fix up its well-worn facilities.

The general obligation bond measure, which has yet to be named, will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot following a unanimous vote by the college’s board of trustees on July 22.

“Santa Rosa Junior College is the 10th oldest and 10th largest community college in the state,” said college president Frank Chong, speaking with the Argus-Courier on Wednesday.

Chong said the school is more popular than ever, with three-quarters of students who attend college in Sonoma County going to SRJC. And yet, he said, its facilities are old — some well over 50 years old.

In short, he said, “Our buildings are tired, they’re over-utilized, and they’re outdated.”

Hence the new bond measure, which would generate millions of dollars to renovate or replace 16 structures in both Santa Rosa and Petaluma. The latter campus was itself built up using money from the last bond measure — the $251 million Measure A, passed by voters in 2002.

That funding is nearly used up, Chong said, adding that a small allocation from the state — less than a million dollars a year — is not nearly enough for what’s needed.

Jane Saldaña-Talley, vice president of the Petaluma campus since 2007, said she watched the local campus grow and evolve with help from Measure A funds — and sees the need for renovations now. Although individual projects haven’t been priced out yet, some portion of the new measure’s funds would definitely go to improvements in Petaluma, including a new science wing, she said.

“I was very blessed that I came on board when they were in the middle of the construction projects that expanded our campus,” she said. But today, she added, some of the campus’ 20-year-old buildings need an upgrade, and its science facilities are unable to meet growing demand.

Due to limited classroom and lab space, students in Petaluma requiring courses in chemistry, physics, biology, physiology and other disciplines are often forced to go to Santa Rosa or to leave the district entirely and take classes in Marin or Napa, Saldaña-Talley said.

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