Are we missing a something?
By “we” I mean Manteca Unified taxpayers, students, parents, and teachers.
The “something” is the out of left field call Tuesday with 52 days left before the deadline to place measures on the ballot is the hasty Manteca Unified school board vote to form a committee to determine if they should seek voter approval for a $90 million bond issue in the Nov. 6 election.
Why would this strike a rationale person who entrusts seven people to look after the best interests of not just the education of 24,500 young people but also the community that pays the tab as being a tad rash?
Let’s think about it for more than just 90 minutes — which is all the time the school board spent on a matter that will cost a typical homeowner thousands of dollars.
The district four years ago asked us to approve a $159 million school bond for the expressed purpose of safety, health, and modernization because there were critical concerns looming on our campuses in regards to facilities. Those aren’t our words. Those are the words of the school board that asked us to trust them.
The board has spent only a third of the Measure G money.
They have not sold all of the bonds because state law requires the money be spent within three years. They told us to have patience because they literally couldn’t bite off more of the work that needed to be done at any given time. Based on their performance to date, it will take six to eight years for the district to spend the balance of Measure G funds in an efficient manner that doesn’t overwhelm the district.
Now we are being told they can’t use Measure G money in order to do what the board now wants to do which is cherry pick all of the athletic facility needs of roughly $90 million from an identified “needs” list of $600 million districtwide and place them ahead of what we now must assume are less important classroom needs involving health, safety, and modernization.
The reason, we must assume based on the board’s No. 1 concern at Tuesday’s meeting, is that the $90 million in athletic facilities they want fixed do not qualify as being pressing enough of safety, health, and modernization issues.
One can only assume given the shotgun approach the board now appears to be taking to the district’s modernization effort that up until now has been methodical and deliberate, that should a bond measure be placed on the Nov. 6 ballot and passed that the board will direct staff to put athletic facilities that can be paid for with Measure “SS” as in “Measure Surprise, Surprise” ahead of Measure G projects in the queue to be completed.
This, of course, will further erode the construction buying power of Measure G funds while the Manteca Unified board adopts a Texas attitude that makes football fields and other sports facilities a priority over classrooms.
And let’s talk about bonding capacity. The district says it can only ask for $143 million max based on current property values. The original list adopted by this board — not adjusted for inflation — indicates there is a pressing need for $600 million worth of work on existing facilities districtwide. That’s existing facilities and not new facilities that growth will require.
Take away the Measure G bond work and that leaves $451 million worth of needed work.
Since the board has determined that the athletic facilities needs of the district are their highest priority that would leave $361 million worth of work left if Measure SS passes this fall.
Now let’s apply some math assuming math is still a priority in the district. Take $90 million away from the maximum $143 million in bonding capacity and you have $53 million remaining.
That’s $53 million to address $361 million in non-athletic facility needs. Of those $361 million in needs none would be tied to athletic facilities as they would be addressed first and foremost.
This might be a good time to point out the voters of Manteca Unified previously leveraged debt to help build a new high school in Weston Ranch so new families moving into the district would not be saddled with their children being bussed long distances to existing high schools. The people of Lathrop — long promised a high school in their community would be next — were forced to wait longer because building a high school first in Weston Ranch was the right thing to do. And East Union High sports supporters that were promised their own football stadium waited 20 years so classroom needs elsewhere could be addressed first.
So now that there is a need to address aging schools primarily in the Manteca portion of the district athletic facilities districtwide are now being held up by the board as “the” pressing priority.
The board after years of deliberate planning is now going into a whirlwind frenzy — assuming the committee they are appointing regarding recommending whether there should be a bond in the fall ballot isn’t window dressing — to change course.
Based on their discussion Tuesday they made it clear the pressing concern for regrouping and changing direction is that athletic facilities must be completed at the expense of everything else on the $600 million needs list.
If nothing else, we now know the board’s top priority when it comes to facilities isn’t what goes on in the classroom.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.