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By Dave Boyce
Almanac Staff Writer
School bond construction measures have had an easier time of it since 2001, when state Proposition 39 lowered the threshold for passage to 55 percent voter approval (from the previous two-thirds). Voters have rarely rejected such measures. Tuesday night was an exception.
Measure H, the San Mateo County Community College District's bid for another $564 million to continue its decade-long reconstruction program, missed the mark by a little over two percentage points. Meanwhile on the college district's board, the three incumbents running for re-election -- all advocates of Measure H -- were re-elected.
The unofficial tally for Measure H from the county Elections Office showed 52.75 percent of voters favored the measure and 47.25 percent opposed it.
In the district's school board race, the three incumbents were re-elected to the three open seats: Dave Mandelkern with 26 percent of the vote, Karen Schwarz with 24 percent and Patricia Miljanich with 20 percent. Challenger Joe Ross garnered 16 percent, with the other two challengers finishing in the single digits.
Measure H may have had a tougher than usual in part due to the struggling economy. And it was the third time in 10 years that the district asked voters to approve a big bond measure. The district came to voters in 2001 for $207 million and in 2005 for $468 million. Both measures passed with about 65 percent voter approval.
The district has three campuses: Canada College in Woodside, Skyline College in San Bruno, and the College of San Mateo in San Mateo. All three campuses still have classroom buildings that are 40 to 50 years old, board President Richard Holober told the Almanac in October.
When asked before the election to justify another half billion dollars of indebtedness, the candidates noted that the district has seen funding evaporate, including $200 million in state funding canceled in 2006, and $25 million lost in the 2008 collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank.
The candidates also noted the importance of up-to-date science, technology, engineering and math curriculums for students transferring to four-year schools for undergraduate education and beyond.