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MCISD still doesn’t get it

My column last week about the Mission CISD tennis court lighting expenditure received a lot of attention.  I have had many, many people tell me they liked the column and agree with my reasoning.  The column, besides running in our 8,500 papers printed each week, also reached 9,937 people on Facebook, creating some much needed conversation in the community about school spending.  

Due to being short staffed (our editor Lea Juarez is moving to Denver and is no longer working at the Progress Times), I was unable to attend the Mission School Board meeting personally Wednesday night.  So, I sent my ace reporter, Kathy Olivarez, to cover the meeting. (See her story here.)

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After talking to Kathy and reading her story, it’s obvious the school board members still don’t get it.  

School Board President Patty O’caña Olivarez tried to justify the expense, saying they were able to pay for the tennis court upgrades because they have done a good job of keeping construction costs down.

What?

Did you not read the part in my column last week that stated, “Just because you can ‘find the money in the budget’ it does not justify the expense.’”

Patty, you just made my point.  Your rationale is flawed.  Expenditures should be based on needs, not “Do we have the money to pay for it?”

At this week’s board meeting, Superintendent Ricardo Lopez said when the last bond election was approved, it included extra money for cost overruns and for construction projects that might arise after the bond funds were allocated, and the money for the Mission Veterans Memorial High School tennis courts improvements will come from the remaining bond funds. He further stated those funds can only be used for construction projects, not for teachers’ salaries or textbooks.

I was not at the meeting and did not speak to the superintendent, so I don’t know if this information was intended to justify the tennis courts expenditure.  If so, that further reinforces my point that the district’s reasoning is flawed when making such decisions.

The point is this. Do we really need “competition level” lighting for the tennis courts? If so, no one has explained why this is necessary.

Of even greater concern to me is the board’s discussion to put in the $150,000 to $190,000 lighting (instead of the original cost of $31,000) not only at Veterans Memorial, but also at Mission High School tennis courts. This, as I stated last week, has been the board’s pattern. Essentially saying, “If your school got it, I want it too!” regardless of whether it is needed.

If we have no tennis court facilities in Mission suitable for competition level play, it’s conceivable we could have the need for such a facility. (Although it begs the question: What have we been doing for tennis competition in years past, and why won’t that work now?) If there is a real need, then explain the need to the taxpayers rather than simply saying we have the money to pay for it, so let’s go for the Cadillac lighting.

I’m not convinced this is a “need” rather than a “want.” And there is no way you’re going to convince me that the district “needs” to “do the same” for Mission High School. Is it just to keep up with the other campus?  Not with my tax dollars!

Let’s use those hard-earned taxpayer dollars on the actual needs of the district.

And, Superintendent Lopez, if we don’t need all the bond money, how about giving it back to the taxpayers? We could use a break!

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