.Why Cabrillo’s Eyeing Another Bond Four Years After Failed Effort

With an aging campus aspiring to be state-of-the-art, Cabrillo College is preparing again to ask voters to approve a bond measure—this time for $274 million targeted at renovations and new developments. 

“We’ve got to have 21st-century facilities to train people for 21st-century careers,” Cabrillo Superintendent and President Matthew Wetstein says.

The Board of Trustees unanimously approved the amount, and will vote in December on whether to put the measure on the ballot in March 2020. That would give the measure a short runway of just a few months. Wetstein’s betting that an especially liberal electorate turning out for the California Primary will lean in their favor.

If successful, the bond would levy a district-wide, 30-year property tax of $19 per $100,000 of assessed value. 

Wetstein says that since the community college’s failed attempt at the $310 million Measure Q in 2016, the facilities planning committee has been hard at work redesigning a campus that fits the needs of the students.

“We’re one of the key workforce trainers in the county, and we have a track record of being very successful with our students moving on and getting four-year degrees,” he says. “But we’re now at a stage where the facilities and the infrastructure of the campus need to be upgraded and modernized.”

During a meeting at Cabrillo’s Aptos campus on Thursday, Oct. 10, Wetstein said the school’s favorable “curb appeal” belies its outdated plumbing, electrical, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, all of which need replacing. He cites a sewer pipe that broke underneath the cafeteria over the summer, a “six-figure project” that has strained the annual state maintenance budget of $240,000.

“All across campus, those issues are waiting to happen,” says Wetstein. 

Wetstein outlines several ambitious developments and renovations to help students compete in modern universities and jobs. Proposed projects include the construction of an $84 million science center and a $73 million renovation of the campus library.

Measure Q narrowly lost in 2016, facing opposition led from within by Cabrillo professor Ray Kaupp. Kaupp, a business teacher, wrote in the official argument against Measure Q that at the time, the facilities master plan called for only $65 million worth of projects, but that a bond firm advised the board that the community would support it for nearly five times that amount. The measure lost by 1,274 votes, in part due to a project list that many remember as poorly defined.

That defeat still stings, and Wetstein says that campaign leaders do not plan to make the same mistakes again.

“There was public perception within the community that the college was asking for too much in that bond measure, with not enough detailed explanation of what the dollars were going to cover,” says Wetstein, who joined the administration in 2017. 

This time around, the campaign is likely to include more outreach to help voters understand why the bond is needed. Wetstein also said that the campus community is on board with the current bond measure.

Kaupp, no longer at Cabrillo, likes what he’s seen of the current measure, adding that Wetstein’s leadership has made a big difference. “They started with the needs of the community, which is very different than starting with a dollar amount,” he says.

The last successful bond measure was for $118 million in 2004; it built the Student Activities Center, the Visual, Applied and Performing Arts Complex and the Allied Health Complex, among other projects.

Despite getting those flagship facilities built, the narrative that emerged from various faculty and staff members at the recent meeting was that the money wasn’t handled well. Planning errors and the recession led to higher-than-anticipated bids. 

Property owners are still paying that off, as well as previous bond loans, but Cabrillo recently refinanced them at a much lower interest rate, saving an estimated $29.5 million in taxes.

Wetstein says that most California community colleges attempt to issue smaller bonds much more frequently. As a single-college district, Cabrillo can’t afford the resources to be constantly planning and campaigning, and leaders don’t want to risk voter fatigue by asking too often.

Instead, he hopes that this time voters will see the need. He says the upgrades “will have significant positive impacts on large numbers of students, and are designed to promote high-quality education.”


  1. Voters are still paying off $220 million in Cabrillo bonds through 2039. How much of this new bond will be going towards pensions? Why is it that in 2016 the college was planning to ask for $65 million but, after using a consultant, decided to ask for over $300 million with no definite plans for the money?—Because the consultant said that our electorate is gullible and will vote in anything. Cabrillo just did a major overhaul ten years ago—and wasted the money because of poor planning and management by using unprofessional in-house people. Why would be bids by higher during a recession??—They are usually lower because people are begging for work. The very successful nursing program was to be terminated because Cabrillo management spent money on the 2016 bond campaign. This shows what their priority is. This still sounds very fishy to me….

    For more detailed info: https://www.santacruzsentinel.com/2018/09/20/cabrillo-college-eyes-another-try-at-bond-as-deficits-loom-facilities-crumble/

    For my detailed information: https://www.santacruzsentinel.com/2018/09/20/cabrillo-college-eyes-another-try-at-bond-as-deficits-loom-facilities-crumble/

  2. Enrollment always goes up during recessions and down in good times. The basic need for a truly good educational environment is constant regardless of bulges in enrollment in either direction. Is Santa Cruz a real county with a full compliment of needs, including a robust Community College? Or, is it a county serving the needs of the self satisfied and the tourists? My vote is for the former and I will vote for this well thought out Bond issue.

  3. Johanna Bowen is a retired Cabrillo College Library Director. Of course she is all for adding an additional 30 year financial burden to homeowners for her former employer to spend. It’s going to pay for her pension! If you want people to vote for something, insulting them doesn’t help. Self-satisfied indeed. How about Self-Serving Hypocrite?

    • Also, Cabrillo College enrollment has been going down for over a decade. This is not due to recession, etc. It is due to families moving out of the area because of the high cost of living.

    • LOL Cabrillo put another vague FAQ that hardly tells us what this bond covers. BUT, it most emphatically states. “Additionally, no funds can be used for any administrator salaries or pensions.” Um, does that mean that the funds will be used for salaries and pensions for staff, instructors, and others? I mean, you would have said otherwise, right?


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