Tuesday's redirecting of funds that we received from the state for new boilers in the elementary schools is a premature move and a rash decision in response to public concern regarding the middle schools and BMHS being left out of the referendum. This hasty decision was an effort to convince the voters that the district will be addressing the maintenance needs at these schools. We believe that everyone involved does want to provide the maintenance needed at each school, but this change in course leaves us with a couple of questions and concerns:
1. Why were these schools excluded from the referendum to
begin with? The middle school roofs and the roof at BMHS need more than
just patching. This referendum could have provided new roofs for these
schools, had they been included.
2. What happens with the boilers now
if the referendum does not pass? This is a risk -- redirecting funds to
these schools now to appease the voters when last October the board clearly believed the elementary school boilers were the most immediate concern.
3. The boilers still need replacing. So, doesn't the redirection
of these funds now increase the cost of remodeling elementary schools by 1.2
million dollars? Mr. McNeal has already publicly stated that the proposed
project is an 80 million dollar project being funded by a 70 million
dollar budget. Moving these funds to other schools just made this an
81.2 million dollar project being funded by a 70 million dollar
referendum. It looks as though we may not have the money to complete the
projects. This is why proper planning of a referendum is so important.
Important to note is
that although the administration says that they always intended to make
the needed repairs to Aldrich, McNeel, and BMHS, a plan for this was
never even developed until the end of January -- about 5 weeks after the referendum
was voted on by the board. Why? Because the board, when they voted,
believed these schools were all included in the referendum. When the
referendum wording was made public, and people saw that so many schools
were left out, the administration began drawing up a "5 year plan" for
repairs to these schools. The cost, just for repairs, was estimated at 8
million dollars with another 2 million needed to actually make
improvements to the facilities beyond required maintenance. So, the
question remains, with annual budget cuts and predicted decreases in
state funding, where will the money come from?
will be even more in the hole now that we have added 1.2 million
dollars to the overall project. That money will have to come from
somewhere and will likely result in budget cuts, losing programs and teachers, just to get the projects
completed. This will set the middle school back even further in
receiving funds for needed repairs and upgrades. A referendum is
supposed to solve problems, not create them.