The Rancho Santa Fe School District board has opted not to pursue a November 2018 bond for a new school gym. Superintendent David Jaffe made the recommendation not to move forward at the April 3 meeting, with board members agreeing to stop the bond planning process at this time.
The next opportunity for a bond would be 2020.
Brad Johnson, the district’s chief business officer, said there are too many significant tasks to be completed on too tight a timeline to be ready for November 2018. Johnson added that they are also working with an incomplete board—due to the special election, the district will not have a full board until May and the board could potentially change again in the November election.
“It would be nice to have a cohesive board together that we can take through the facilities planning process,” Johnson said.
Johnson advised that the district move forward with completing a deferred maintenance plan for the district and conducting a demographic study, which hasn’t been completed in 12 years. The district would also like to do a “light” master plan update and program review—typically the district would bring on an architect for that task, Johnson said.
“I’m supportive of moving forward with those other items and tabling the bond, it’s reasonable given the time constraints,” said RSF School District Board President Todd Frank, noting that he is personally disappointed because if interest rates continue to move the way they have, what the district has wanted to do with the gym for several years may cost 20 to 30 percent more a few years from now. “It’s something that I wanted to move the school through and provide great first-class facilities. Given where the board is now with the timing, trying to push it through, I think it’s better to defer.”
Board Vice President Tyler Seltzer echoed Frank’s statement that waiting on the bond is the best decision but he was similarly disappointed.“
“We move off the bond debate but let’s not take us off fighting for excellence at all times in this school,” Seltzer said, which for him includes facilities, curriculum and everything across the board.
Seltzer said it is unfortunate that the debate in the community has moved away from excellence in the school’s athletic center and into simply a bond debate.
“I’m exceedingly disappointed that some candidates in this special election decided to use a bond as a wedge issue,” Seltzer said. He said he was alarmed to hear from a longtime community member last week expressing an opinion on the board’s alleged $30 million bond, which does not exist.
“Someone told her that and they’ve done it for craven, electoral reasons,” Seltzer said. “It’s scare tactics and it’s divisive and it may work. Politics are ugly, I get that. But in a community that’s small, for a volunteer unpaid board position I find that cheap.
Board Clerk Sarah Neal said she believed the community pushback was about the school district spending money on bond planning without doing strategic planning. She noted that some community members have responded and focused on the bond as it was a specific board goal set in the district’s Local Control Accountability Plan.
“I think it’s important we don’t demonize community members who are paying close attention to what we’ve put on public record as our goal which is a potential 2018 bond and the effect would have on taxpayers,” Neal said. “I think it’s very reasonable we might see some political results to that.”
Seltzer responded that was not demonizing, but engaging. He said he was concerned about the slippery slope of using scare tactics whenever a bond discussion comes up again. He said there will always be a small group in the community that are against the school no matter what.
“If a candidate sees that tactic works, we will continue to see that same tactic every two to four years. As opposed to running a positive campaign based on your merits and abilities, it’s based on attacking the school,” Seltzer said. “As long as I’m here, I will defend the school.”