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Letter to the editor: Bond issue does not meet district’s needs

 

Jamestown Public School Board unanimously approved an irresponsible $34.5 million bond issue, nearly double the failed 2015 referendum amount, for the chronically underfunded district to consider at the ballot. Irresponsible because the proposal is a mixed bag of essential upgrades like ADA compliance and fire alarm systems attached to dubiously expensive HVAC improvements and obscene luxuries like the $7.5 million turf football field and track flanked by a 4,000-square-foot concession stand building.

In a district that sees perpetual property tax increases with nearly a 20 percent poverty rate, citizens must be diligent in the spending of precious taxpayer dollars. The Citizens Advisory Committee, likely unskilled in large project management but well-meaning, failed to apply a strategically constrained and surgical design approach to the district’s undeniable needs. The school board, a body incompetent in maintaining district assets as demonstrated by the $14.4 million gap in capital maintenance needs, failed to be critical of the outsized expenditure on the football field and track. The board squandered the opportunity for the district to offer truly promising educational policies like Universal Preschool that can add credibility to the claim “a school of choice,” or the side benefit of “attracting and retaining community members” by offering middle schoolers an afterschool coding center; recognized modernizations that would serve to “benefit current and future generations.”  

The marketing materials bucket the upgrades into three buckets: Educational Adequacy, Site Safety and Existing Facility Improvements. The materials, while eye catching, fail to make a direct relationship between the novel Maker Spaces and closing a neighborhood school with the idea of Educational Adequacy - a vague yet aspirational idea that the mission of education is to provide knowledge and skills to allow people to flourish in their lives.

The materials also lack meaningful details for the citizens, the debt financing body, to consider in weighing the costs to a return on investment. What are the engineering costs? What is the margin Consolidated Construction places on materials and design? Is the district buying $20 million or $25 million worth of assets? What are the maintenance costs of the upgrades and the turf field? How will these upgrades result in a student’s improvement in reading, math and critical thinking? What are the anticipated gains in college readiness? How will relocated families navigate the limited routes to and traffic around L’Amour?

This iteration of corporate-led bond issue fail to meet the district’s needs financially and academically.

randomness