San Benito bond picks under review

SBHS

San Benito High School trustees reviewed their priority list for bond funds, but did not vote to re-prioritize projects during a special meeting last week.
Trustees wanted hard numbers for costs of a special education modernization project, upgrades to the 100 and 200 wing classrooms, and a project that would convert the current agriculture building into space for the Associated Student Body before they made a final decision, Superintendent John Perales told the Free Lance this week.
There is about $7.8 million in bond money left to allocate to projects. The gathering was the second one in which board members met to re-prioritize a list of projects that will be funded with the $42.5 million general obligation facilities bond approved by voters in 2014. Trustee Evelyn Muro was not present at the meeting.
Staff officials highlighted a need to modernize science buildings to meet a growing number of students taking classes with labs. They also emphasized a need to bring the school into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The cost of the planned science modernization—which would exclude new classrooms—was $7.9 million. Bringing facilities into compliance with the ADA, plus the modernization of 100 and 200 wing classrooms, would cost a projected $2.5 million, according to a spreadsheet shared with trustees at the meeting.
Even with about $924,000 in cost savings for projects completed or nearing completion, there isn’t enough remaining bond money to do both projects.
Trustee Bill Tiffany asked if the district could bring the school into compliance with ADA, upgrade science classrooms, and delay modernizations to the 100 and 200 wing classrooms. The superintendent agreed science modernizations were more important, but it was not affordable, he said.
Roseanne Lascano, the district’s director of finance and operations, was concerned bond money budgeted for ADA upgrades might not cover the costs, she said.
“I’m worried about the ADA and what we don’t have budgeted there,” Lascano said.
The district is considering going out for a second general obligation facilities bond in November. Trustees hired a polling consultant company and learned in April that about 71 percent of interviewed community members were likely to vote for a $60 million bond if the district put it on the November ballot.
A state education facilities bond will also appear before voters on the ballot in November, and, if passed, would allow the high school district to receive matching funds for certain projects.
The superintendent suggested making compliance with ADA and the 100 and 200 wing classroom modernization the next priority for this bond, followed by the special education modernization and the Ag building/ ASB conversion, he said.
Modernizations to science classrooms would be the first priority with a second bond, along with completing the visual and performing arts building, an aquatics center, signage and a track, Perales said.
The public’s approval of a pool was “pretty low,” said Steve DeLay. Board President Ray Rodriguez said that if the public doesn’t value it right now, it shows the sales job the district will have to do.
The district’s director of finance and operations also cautioned that district’s current list of possible construction projects may not have all the things the campus needs.
“I don’t think the list is complete,” Lascano said. “We need to add the track.”

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