School board adopts alternative plan to spend bond money

March 15, 2001
Santa Paula News

Much to the surprise of those attending this week’s Santa Paula Elementary School Board meeting, the board voted 3-2 for an alternative plan on how to spend Measure “D” funds.

Brian D. WilsonSanta Paula TimesMuch to the surprise of those attending this week’s Santa Paula Elementary School Board meeting, the board voted 3-2 for an alternative plan on how to spend Measure “D” funds.The alternative plan was presented by school board member George Morgan. A steering committee, made up of district staff and community members had been working for months to come up with priorities for using the money across the district. The district had also hired an architectural firm to develop a facilities needs analysis, including putting dollar figures for each item, school by school, and laying out the phases for the work. The vote to okay Morgan’s plan came with little discussion. Trustees Michelle Kolbeck and Dan Robles cast the only no votes. The only input from the audience came after the fact when the board heard from shocked teachers and administrators.Morgan’s plan would allocate three million dollars for prioritized projects presented by the steering committee, with an emphasis on long term equipment and asset upgrade and replacement and secondarily for short term vital needs, until the funds run out. Under the second phase of the adopted Morgan plan, the district would sell the next bond for $2,750,000. Two million would go for construction of a dome-type gym/multi-purpose room. The remaining $750,000 is designated for a cafeteria at Bedell School.Morgan told the packed board room that they were dealing with borrowed money. He was especially concerned with the proposed use of the bond money for short-term maintenance items. “Don’t let the loan outlast the asset,” Morgan told the board.Under phase three, the remainder of the bond money, $4,250,000 would include short-term maintenance items as suggested by the steering committee. Morgan’s plan states that these projects would be allotted based on highest priority and greatest need, with a goal toward “parity.”Some people were under the impression that the bond money was intended only for repairs and restoration work at the district’s schools. “When the bond passed we told the community the money would only be used for repair of the schools,” District Superintendent Bonnie Bruington told the board. “There may be other money out there for things like a gym at Isbell and a multi-purpose room at Bedell.”One of the community members of the District Steering Committee for the Measure “D” bond funds is long-time resident and realtor Carl Barringer. He was surprised at the vote by the board. “For three members of the school board to turn around the work of the steering committee and the architect makes me wonder what they were thinking,” Barringer told the Santa Paula Times.
The wording of the actual bond measure does leave room for new construction, even if that was not used as a selling point to the public. The measure said, in total:“To repair and renovate every school in Santa Paula Elementary School District, make the District eligible for State matching funds, replace classroom heating/ventilation systems, upgrade classroom electrical systems for computers and modern technology, repair and replace leaky roofs, build new permanent classrooms and facilities, and upgrade classroom communication systems for improved student safety, shall the District issue $10 million of bonds at interest rates below the legal limit so long as no bond money is spent on administrative salaries?”Teacher Carolyn Ishida said she was concerned with the numbers presented and wondered if the various fees and services would have to be paid from the General Fund of the District. “We got blindsided,” Ishida said. “Of all the input at the workshops, only certain input was taken.” She urged the board to rescind its’ action and take time to take the plan to the people who voted for the bond measure.Board member Dan Robles joined the call for the board to reconsider and made a motion to do just that, but there was no second to his motion.Morgan said he had been concerned from the beginning about spending money on an architect for drafting a plan they hadn’t approved. “It’s a classic case of putting the cart before the horse,” Morgan said.Rick Cadman, Principal of Blanchard School told trustees that Morgan’s plan had never been discussed and questioned the legality of the action. “Nobody’s had any input...just zap and it’s over,” he said. Board President Michelle Kolbeck also expressed concern about the legality of the board’s action. “It was not presented to the public prior to the meeting,” she told the board.Morgan seemed surprised at the opposition. He said he took information from teachers, parents, the public and the architect before putting together his plan. “There’s nothing here we haven’t talked about,” he added. “I don’t really see the problem. All we’ve done is talk, talk, talk about this for months.

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