MODESTO — Modesto City Schools board members utterly rejected the idea of polling taxpayers on their plan to spend millions more on a pool for Enochs High.
Board members spoke vehemently against the city of Modesto's suggestion they co-sponsor a special election of Village I property owners.
Member Steve Grenbeaux said dealing with the city had been difficult. "We do not bully. We know our jobs," he said.
The board voted unanimously not to hold a special election, as suggested by City Council members, and never considered the idea of letting go of $1.8 million collected from Village I homeowners to help pay off bonds early.
Grenbeaux said he wants to move forward in building the pool, and asked that a proposal to hire an architect be brought to the board at an upcoming meeting.
Board member Amy Neumann said the public had its chance for input at a special meeting held in August at Enochs. That meeting had a strong showing by student teams traveling daily to Johansen High to practice. "We had overwhelming support for the pool at that time," she said.
Rubén Villalobos, who previously voted against building the pool, said only a vote by all district taxpayers would be fair, and at an estimated cost of $378,000 would not be affordable.
The city of Modesto has threatened to take the Modesto and Sylvan Union school districts to court over what it says is overtaxing of Village I. The city's contention rests on a mitigation agreement signed by the districts, city and developers in 1994, limiting what the schools could collect. An independent legal opinion concluded the districts probably violated the agreement.
The cost of the pool is roughly $20 out of the $390 paid annually in extra taxes by each Village I household, the district estimates. Building the pool was expected to wait for additional taxes to be collected from properties in Riverbank and a north Modesto subdivision outside the Enochs boundaries.
In other action, the board voted unanimously to proceed with a lease agreement with the Modesto Irrigation District to build a student farm on five acres at Church Street near Milnes Road. The facility will be used by four high schools, built and maintained with funding for career courses.
Another unanimous vote came for the tentative contract with district teachers, putting kids back in school for what would have been furlough days: Jan. 30, March 8 and April 29. Board President Nancy Cline said adding school days was a good thing "whether the kids want them or not," she added with a chuckle.
Teachers will vote on the change today. Support staff will vote on a similar agreement Wednesday. District managers will weigh in later, said head of human resources Craig Rydquist.
Returning the three days will cost the district $2.6 million, said Chief Business Official Julie Chapin, an expense the district can afford with the threat of midyear state cuts off the table.
Those cuts would have cost the district $13.2 million, money it can use to move into the black for this year and two additional years. It was the first three-year positive outlook the board has had for several years, Chapin said.
With an eye to keeping its budget on track, the board gave a unified thumbs up for a resolution urging the federal government to avoid "sequestration," automatic spending cuts set to begin Jan. 2.
The cost to Modesto City Schools would be $2.5 million for the 2013-14 school year, reducing funding for programs that primarily serve poor children, special-education students and preschoolers.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2339, and on Twitter, @NanAustin.