Stirring speeches and applause still rang in their ears as an upbeat crowd of Enochs High School student athletes headed home Wednesday night after a board of education meeting about their planned swimming pool.
But what comes next is more likely to be the pounding of a gavel than the roar of a backhoe.
Some taxpayers have threatened to seek a restraining order against construction. "I, for one, plan to lobby the city and the BIA (Building Industry Association) to jointly seek and obtain a court order restraining you from expending one dime of capital facilities money until the matter can be adjudicated in a court of law," Henry Patrino told Modesto City Schools trustees at Wednesday's meeting.
Also, the city of Modesto is weighing legal action to set limits on money paid by Village I property owners.
A city proposal to build a joint Enochs-community pool at neighboring Mary Grogan Park found favor with students and coaches, but school district staff said extra taxes being collected to build the pool could not be spent off-campus.
School board trustees will not revisit the pool issue, President Rubén Villalobos said Wednesday night. Trustees repeatedly have voted for the project, saying the long-promised pool fulfills expectations for a comprehensive high school in the sun-baked Central Valley.
The decision to build is as far as the pool has gotten, however. Collecting all the $3.5 million to pay for it will take at least three more years, staff estimated Wednesday, making it unlikely today's freshmen water polo players will get to splash at Enochs.
Becky Meredith, head of facilities and planning for the district, said she based the $3.5 million on what it cost to renovate the Downey High pool. No specifications exist and no bids have been sought.
Meredith said Wednesday that the district no longer is counting on new home construction to bring in funds, but will wait to collect enough Mello-Roos property taxes from existing homes in Riverbank and north Modesto subdivisions.
Some Village I residents, however, believe they have contributed more than their share, a controversy that has dogged the popular project.
An independent legal study of founding documents of the Mello-Roos taxing district supports that view. It was the review, released in December, that prompted the city to consider legal action to block further spending, Modesto City Councilman Dave Cogdill Jr. said Wednesday.
The school district disputes the study's findings. Board member Amy Neumann said Wednesday that the district actually spent far less of the extra taxes than it could have.
The pool is only a small part of the more than $100 million it cost to build Enochs, plus millions more to open four schools in the Sylvan district.
If the pool project was abandoned, it would reduce taxpayers' yearly bills by no more than $20, Meredith said. That's out of $390 annually in extra taxes paid by most Village I properties for 23 years.
Several homeowners who spoke at Wednesday's meeting said the savings would be $400 or less in total for their properties. Keep the money, they said, and build the pool.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2339.