Parents in the Benton area strongly objected this week when they heard Eastern Sierra Unified School District would consider re-allocating bond money for a new gymnasium at Benton School to other
This issue came up of a meeting of the Eastern Sierra School Board in Bridgeport on Wednesday. The citizens’ bond oversight committee recommended that the school board consider reallocating bond funds reserved for the Benton campus gym to other eligible capital projects in the district. School District Superintendent Dr. Don Clark said state money for capital improvements and maintenance has dried up. He said the choices are tough and the needs are considerable.
Mono Supervisor Hap Hazard represents the Tri-Valley area. He emailed the media to say that he received word that the Eastern Sierra Unified School District would discuss taking away about $4 million of Proposition 39 bond money from the Tri-Valley area. Hazard said the money was targeted for a new gym at the Benton School. Hazard focused on the issue and attended the school board meeting in Bridgeport along with Benton School principal, Steven Childs and others.
Supervisor Hazard told the board that the community had supported the original bond measure and had been promised a new school in Chalfant. That promise was transformed into the new gym for Benton. Officials considered scrapping that idea since, Dr. Clark said, student numbers in Benton have dropped from nearly 100 to 38. He said the countywide bond money could help with roof projects, blacktop, two boilers and other heating and air conditioning needs throughout the district.
Supervisor Hazard said, “It would be morally and ethically wrong to take the Tri-Valley citizens’ money just because you could.” Hazard said he told the board that many Tri-Valley citizens, without children, are paying for the bond through their taxes. Hazard said the bond money should not go to other areas. “This proposal involved not just 30-40 kids and their families,” he said, “but also about 1,000 taxpayers.”
Hazard suggested that the school board hold off on the issue to see if Governor Brown’s ballot measure passes which would provide money for schools. Hazard said the school board did vote to end the discussion of taking money away from Benton. He said they also recommitted to the gym construction. They do want a redesign of the gym to lower costs. Superintendent Clark said $1.5 million has already been spent on Benton School along with projects in other schools. Clark expects more money troubles ahead for the district.
More on school issues at a meeting of the Benton/Hammil Regional Planning Advisory Committee meeting Monday, January 23, 6:30pm at the Benton Community Center and at the Chalfant RPAC meeting on Thursday, January 26, at the same time at the Chalfant Community Center.