Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
This community board won’t be shamed come November when San Benito High School District officials hope to gain approval on another $60 million in bond funding, just more than two years after voters narrowly approved a $42.5 million facilities bond for the same district.
After the 2014 bond approval, and after vowing to put sports facilities at the bottom of the district’s building priority list, district officials turned around and spent millions of general fund dollars on new athletic facilities and upgrades of existing ones. And more sports spending remains on the table with a new aquatic center broached for the new bond plan, although district officials have vowed once again to keep it as a low priority with the new funds, as they did last time.
The initial stages of a campaign in favor of second bond include the same broken record this county has heard before, and it’s time for voters to say enough is enough. For years, the high school district has taken voters for granted with these types of money decisions, but at some point local residents are going to realize how much of their hard-earned money is going toward school spending that’s outside of the classroom.
There’s no reason to believe high school leaders won’t do the same thing with public funds that they did after the 2014 bond approval, after which they spent more than $12 million on sports facilities.
Completed facilities projects in a broader master plan as of last winter—starting with non-athletic endeavors—included $500,000 for classroom roof replacements; $1.6 million for a Nash Road closure; $200,000 for demolition of old classrooms; $3.1 million for air-conditioning in the 300 and 400 classroom wings; $600,000 for the 300 wing classroom modernization; $17.4 million for a vocational education building; $3.6 million for communications upgrades; $8.3 million toward a wrestling/physical education building; $3 million for new tennis courts and a parking lot; and $800,000 for a gym repair.
The sports-related slate of projects added up to a staggering $12.1 million in costs among $39 million-plus—that’s general fund and bond expenses—committed toward master plan projects at the time. The numbers affirm that this county’s educational system’s priorities are out of whack due to heavy influence by the sports community to heavily fund athletic programs.
The high school, though, continues to struggle academically, performing below average on standardized testing. So voters when continually asked for more money have to ask themselves: Would you rather keep up with the Joneses academically or athletically? Because in a small county with limited resources, it’s hard or impossible to have it both ways.
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