School Districts Spend Bond Money on Staff Salaries and Benefits

Updated: May 22, 2018




Voters in the San Diego Unified School District approved Proposition S in 2008 and Proposition Z in 2012, after reading ballot language that said there would be “no money for administrators.” Farther down in the ballot language, there was a disclaimer: “Proceeds of the bonds may be used to pay or reimburse the District for the cost of District staff when performing work on or necessary and incidental to the bond projects.”


Proposition 39, a statewide initiative approved by voters in 2000, allows school districts to approve a school bond with a 55 percent vote of the electorate (down from the previous two-thirds threshold) as long as certain conditions are met, and a 2004 opinion by then Attorney General Bill Lockyer allows districts to use bond funds to reimburse staff who spend time on bond administration. The reimbursement can cover benefits, including health, unemployment and workers’ compensation insurance.


Since 2012, the Los Angeles Unified School District has had the highest percentage of its bond funds going toward staff salaries and benefits. In that district – the state’s largest – 19.9 percent of school bonds have been spent on salaries and benefits.


Los Angeles Unified said that unlike other districts, a larger portion of its construction oversight is completed in-house. During the past decade, the district said it has shifted from using private consultants to in-house consultants (44 percent 10 years ago, to 12 percent today).


Since 2008, the San Diego Unified School District has spent more than $1.2 billion in school bonds, $934 million of which went to capital outlay, and $62 million to employee salaries and benefits. The district plans to spend about 5 percent of bond funds on employee costs.

The Grossmont Union High School District, also in the San Diego area, plans to spend 1.6 percent of its bond funds on staff salaries and benefits ($6.75 million out of $427.4 million). (Source: Voice of San Diego, March 13.)

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