Thursday, May 8, 2008
If Salinas residents care about children safely crossing the street and having roomier and modern facilities, supporters say, they should vote for Measure T.
Measure T is an $80 million bond initiative to fund capital projects in the Salinas City Elementary School District. One of the bond’s priorities is to pay for new drop-off and pick-up locations at district schools, most of which are more than 50 years old. “All your modern schools have a separate drive-in and drive-out area,” says campaign manager Brian Higgins. “These schools are old. They just don’t have that.”
School safety became a catalyzing issue for south Salinas parents in early 2006 when longtime Mission Park Elementary School crossing guard Jim Maloney died after a car hit him while directing kids to school. The bond would fund a safer drop-off and pick-up area for Mission Park, which is on heavily trafficked Acacia Street.
In addition to carving out more parent parking, Measure T also would fund installation of so-called “Columbine” locks that allow teachers to lock their doors from the inside.
All but the district’s newest school would receive new multi-purpose facilities for school lunches and athletics, Higgins says. Superintendent Donna Alonzo Vaughan adds that lunches and assemblies are now done in shifts because of the lack of space. “Boronda Meadows is the only school that has got a place...where the whole school can sit and see a performance,” Vaughan says.
The bond measure also would help finance the construction of at least one new school and upgrade existing classrooms. “We have over 50 percent of our classes in portables,” Vaughan says. “That’s not good.”
No bond has been passed in the district in more than 50 years. The bond cannot be used for salaries, administration or ongoing expenses. A citizens’ committee would oversee how the district spends the money.
Still, some anti-tax groups oppose the measure. Lawrence Samuels, president of Freedom Watch, wrote the ballot argument against Measure T. “It’s just another tax that keeps burdening the taxpayers and education doesn’t improve,” Samuels says.
Vaughan says if the measure fails it will take decades to fund the school improvements, and some south Salinas schools don’t qualify for state and federal funds. “It’s an investment in Salinas kids,” she says. “We haven’t gone to the taxpayers in over 50 years so we are due. They’re getting a lot for their money.”
In other local ballot races, Spreckels residents who want to pay for maintenance of Spreckels Memorial Park and the memorial district’s meeting hall are pushing for passage of Measure S, an annual tax of no more than $95 per parcel. Measure V would fund upgrades of classrooms and other facilities within the Aromas-San Juan Unified School District by issuing $18.8 million in bonds.