The Coast News Group
Community CommentaryOpinion

Voters facing triple tax threat

The proposed $22 million Cardiff Elementary School District’s tear down and replace facilities plan is not only costly and educationally disruptive, it appears to be totally unnecessary.

The district’s reasons for the plan and expenditure do not justify the proposed actions, especially since there is an alternative common sense, no additional tax, plan available that will accomplish the same educational goals.

Common sense plan

The buildings scheduled for demolition and replacement appear structurally sound and fully functional except for neglected maintenance items.  The cited roofs and windows and termite problems can be resolved with district money already allocated or on hand.

The portables can be removed and not replaced because student enrollment has steadily declined and they are no longer needed for classroom purposes.  The district currently is overbuilt and has a 30 percent surplus in student capacity.

With the removal of the portables and some adjustments in the distribution of classes, the current multi-purpose room could be modified to accommodate all Cardiff Elementary Students at one time for an amount of money within the district’s annual maintenance budget.

All food preparation is done at the central Ada Harris School kitchen. The existing 600 square foot Cardiff Elementary cafeteria warming kitchen could be modified so that students could be served through windows either outside or within the multi-purpose room.  This inexpensive change would satisfy the ADA requirement and eliminate the need for new facilities.

The World War II, brick 600-square-foot communication building serves as is for needed school storage.  No viable justification for spending hundreds of thousands of dollar to modify it has been presented.

The city of Encinitas is planning a pedestrian railroad crossing and parking area on North County Transit land at Montgomery Avenue.  The district should work with the city on the joint use of this parking rather than take up valuable school property and spending school money for additional parking.

The district could solve its student drop-off and pick-up problem by working with the city and converting space along San Elijo and Montgomery avenues from parking to loading and unloading only during certain hours.   This should be a very low cost solution to a serious safety problem.

The County Department of Education is presently working with five other districts to obtain solar installations at no taxpayer cost.  Under this plan the districts lease the equipment and pay for it with energy cost savings.  The county recommends this process because the leasing companies provide all operational and maintenance costs, while the districts receives a percentage of energy production income.

This plan does not accommodate the school administration’s desire for another new school for prestige purposes or allow the district to sand bag several years of maintenance cost savings in its operational budget so it can spend more on employee salary and benefits.  Other than addressing those hidden wily wishes, the Common Sense Plan works for both students and taxpayers.

It must be kept in mind that both the district’s and the Common Sense Plans will only be short term fixes unless the district’s serious building maintenance funding problem is addressed and solved.  The Cardiff District is one of the six richest in the county, yet it has trouble living within its income.  The district doesn’t have a money problem, it has a management problem.  Other districts are forced to provide quality educational opportunities at far less cost.  Cardiff needs to learn from them and not be so wasteful of taxpayer money.

As the Cardiff District has discovered, the deferring of maintenance and the use of the money elsewhere can only go on for just so long and real, almost unsurmountable facility problems develop.   In this case, it has been just 13 years since the modernized Cardiff School buildings were occupied and the District finds itself against the wall.

Rather than addressing the management problem head-on the district is going to try to get the taxpayers to pass its bond, pay three times for the same facilities and hope they don’t catch on.

1. Property taxes (some of the highest assessments in the county)

2. 2000 Bond (taxpayers on the hook until 2025)

3. 2016 Bond ($47 million taxpayers cost for $22 million bond)

If the electorate passes the 2016 Cardiff Elementary School Facilities Improvement Bond and the district is not forced to fully fund building maintenance, it will be only a matter of time before the taxpayers will be subjected to another onerous new tax proposal.

Stop the madness.  Vote No on Cardiff School Bond.

Dr. Bob Bonde was a members of the 1999 Cardiff Elementary District School Citizen Committee that planned the new Ada Harris School and modernized Cardiff Elementary School and supported the 2000 school bond.