The Cardiff Elementary School district presented a proposed $22 million bond measure at its monthly meeting on May 12; only 19 people showed up, mostly teachers and parents. All were in support, except for members of the Cardiff Taxpayers Association.
Association leader Bob Bonde said the meeting went virtually unannounced in the community. His said his organization found out about it the week before.
School superintendent Jill Vinson presented construction scenarios to the board of trustees and the public. She said the 55–65-year-old buildings desperately needed to be replaced at the Cardiff campus. The bond measure would fix critical issues, provide new classrooms and an auditorium/community room, would improve a “safe campus” layout, and provide additional parking and increased student drop-off flow.
The track and field at Ada Harris Elementary would also be replaced; it is used by numerous community sports teams and improper drainage during wet weather usually makes a muddy mess.
“The new school should have a life expectancy of 100 years and become a zero-net-energy campus,” said Vinson.
At the meeting, Bonde referred to an 11-page report he prepared for the district in 2004 that showed the last renovations of the Cardiff campus came in $66 per square foot higher than the previous 15 new schools built in San Diego County at the time. He presented his report again to the district prior to the meeting. “What is the academic justification?” questioned Bonde.
If approved by voters, the bond will cost Cardiff taxpayers $47 million over the 30-year term, including interest.
It was Bonde’s group that defeated a 1998 bond measure. Under that bond, both of the district’s aging schools — Cardiff Elementary and Ada W. Harris Elementary — would have been completely rebuilt. After the defeat, Bonde served on the district’s facilities committee and formed a plan to revitalize and rehabilitate the Cardiff campus, thus helping to pass a smaller, $11 million bond that completely rebuilt the Ada Harris campus in 2000.
There’re still eight more years to pay off the 2000 bond, at an average cost of $192 a year (based on an assessed value of $600,000) to each Cardiff homeowner. With the new proposed bond, the average Cardiff homeowner will pay $157 annually in additional property taxes for the next 30 years. Bonde points out that most homes on the west side of Cardiff are selling for $1.5 million or more. Those purchasing west-side homes today will pay over $500 annually.
Speaking in support of the proposal, Trish d’Entremont, a teacher and active union member in the district, said her Cardiff home has appreciated 500 percent since purchased in 1987. “Because of the quality of our schools, it has helped maintain the value of our home. I owe it to the school district,” said d’Entremont.
Britta Brewer, a former Cardiff school student and 40-year resident, said, “They’ve taken care of the children, and it's time to take care of their home: kids spend one third of their life here…. Classrooms designed 60 years ago do not meet the educational needs of the kids today. Education has changed.”
Bonde suggested the board hold off its push to put the measure on California’s general election ballot in November. Rather, he said, “A facilities review committee should be appointed, made up of members of the school board, teachers’ association, Cardiff Town Council, Cardiff Main Street 101, and Cardiff taxpayers….
“By not allowing this planning process, it will not set well with the electorate,” he warned. In 2009, it was Bonde’s group that shut down the school district’s discussion of a possible $50-per-parcel tax to augment state school funding. The taxpayers’ association, seemingly overnight, had homeowners placing hundreds of yard signs around town, reading “No New School Taxes.” The tax idea quickly became a dead issue.
School-board president Mark Whitehouse said the next steps will be a facilities focus group, a parent survey, public comment, and polling the community, prior to a resolution needing to go to the county registrar of voters by August 12 to make the November election.
Whitehouse said, “I don’t like paying taxes or sending money to Sacramento or Washington. This money will go straight to our school. For my house, it works out to only $7.50 a month.”
“It looks like they want to ram it through,” Bonde said to his group after the meeting.
(corrected 5/18, 10:30 a.m.)