PITTSBURG — Cindy Riachi spoke about a missing item on the Pittsburg school district’s bond during public comment at Monday’s school board meeting.
Riachi, who spoke against the bond at a board meeting in December, said the board’s “priority is misplaced” by asking voters to approve a second auditorium at the high school when preschoolers are without a modern storm shelter.
Riachi was speaking about preschoolers at the Family Resource Center. The building is owned by the district, but leases part to the FRC — which provides services to preschoolers that may eventually attend Pittsburg schools. In severe weather, children move to the middle of the building.
“Yes, I am concerned to make sure things are safe down there, but I have to work with the center and that’s completely separate from bond,” Superintendent of Schools Destry Brown said.
Penny Wood spoke next in support of the school bond. She said the additional monthly cost based on the value of her home and family business, Vietti Auto Body Shop, is worth the investment.
“We understand what the increase will do to our taxes, but we believe in reinvesting in our education and future,” she said.
B.J. Harris, a member of the vision committee which chose projects for the board to vote on, thanked the board for accepting the projects. Harris believes the projects are best for the district and the committee represents the community as a whole.
Harris felt the process was thorough.
“I have yet to hear a question that was not brought up during the visioning process,” he said.
The ballot for the bond was mailed out on Jan. 8 to roughly 12,000 registered voters in the district. The post marked ballot has to be received by the county clerk no later than noon on Jan. 28. The district will find out the results later that day.
Superintendent of Schools Destry Brown gave the board a recap of the projects and answered some reoccurring questions.
One of the questions: "Why are the projects not being done in phases?"
“If we address part of the district we still have another part of the district having capacity issues,” said Brown, who used a PowerPoint to show the district is at 91 percent capacity based on current enrollment and square footage of schools.
Brown also said taxpayers would have spent more money based on cost of construction increasing roughly “4 to 6 percent a year.”
Twenty-eight percent of the proposed $67.6 million bond is covered by state aid. The district had a small window to hold the bond election before June 30, 2015 and receive 45 percent state aid reimbursement, but did not make it.
Board member Michelle Hucke asked why there was not a push to potentially capture the 45 percent.
“We could have hurried and tried to put bond out before June 30,” but the community wasn’t ready, Brown said.
Finally, Brown answered why the district decided to do mail ballots instead of a poll.
“Last bond election had 11 percent registered voters to vote,” Brown said, adding mail ballots get between 30 and 50 percent response.
“This greatly increases accessibility for people to vote,” he said.
In other business, the board accepted a change order to excavate dirt for the high school tennis courts. The additional $18,936 was due to 4,600 cubic yards of “bad dirt,” causing additional excavating.
The remaining $51,169 in tennis court funds goes towards bleachers and lights, but it won’t be enough.
“We will need to do some additional fundraising to get lighting (and bleachers) in place for all of those courts,” Brown said.
Concrete on four of the 10 courts has been poured. The superintendent expects the rest to be poured in the spring.
— Michael Stavola is a staff writer at The Morning Sun. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MichaelStavola1.