Originally published at 5:04 p.m. Aug. 15, 2013
Minutes before discussing what to do with a $17 million windfall from a special tax district in Talega, the Capistrano Unified school board heard from a student who described the current conditions at San Clemente High.
“I had a friend scared to death by a rat falling on her foot during dance rehearsal.”
Gillian Perry was there to advocate for a new, scratch that, a first performing arts center. Currently, students use the Triton Center for dramatic and dance presentations. The less-than-stellar space doubles as the cafeteria.
School board members said they would like to address some of the problems at San Clemente High, and a recent refinancing of bonds related to the Talega Mello-Roos district could help do that.
The effort produced an extra $17 million, said Clark Hampton, deputy superintendent for business services.
Right before tackling the Talega proceeds, the board decided to lower the taxes for Las Flores residents by $97 annually (on average), giving back most the $4.8 million refinancing windfall. A smaller portion will replace interest income the district had collected before the refinancing from an account that has since been liquidated.
But with San Clemente High’s conditions so subpar, the board decided to hold onto the proceeds for at least another year to come up with a plan on how they might be used.
“In the future if we cannot create and maintain the kinds of schools that they actually insist on…,” said Trustee Amy Hanacek, “we may be held accountable for not utilizing the resources.”
A slew of competing motions followed.
Trustee Ellen Addonizio moved to give the money back to the taxpayers, which would have meant an annual average savings of $314. Trustee Anna Bryson.
Hanacek moved to split the baby, giving residents a $157 break (on average) on their yearly tax bill, allowing the district to keep $8.5 million for future projects.
She then changed her mind and moved to keep all of the money. But no one seconded.
Superintendent Joseph Farley asked the board to consider giving staff some time to come up with a plan for the money.
“The reality is we can’t go much longer without a plan on what we’re going to do there,” he said. “I would encourage you to give us a year to see what could develop.”
Reardon said he could go along with that as long as everything was done transparently.
“If we turn it into a piggy bank, we will get some blow back,” he said.
The board ultimately voted 6-0 to hold on to the money and revisit the issue after staff has come up with a plan to address San Clemente High’s many needs. Board President John Alpay did not participate in the discussion or vote because he lives in Talega.
- Read about Las Flores landowners getting a break on their taxes.
- Read about the board considering forgoing the annual 2 percent inflation adjustment for Mission Viejo and Aliso Viejo residents.