Though several stressed it was far from official, Santa Barbara school district boardmembers entertained the idea of placing a facilities bond measure on the November 2016 ballot at a workshop held Tuesday night. The school district’s facilities committee has met monthly for the past year, but in December, committee member and longtime school advocate Lanny Ebenstein put the brakes on the process of finalizing a facilities master plan. Overwhelmed by the amount of detail for 21 school sites, he called for priorities.
On Tuesday, Ebenstein made a case for eliminating 93 portables at elementary schools and developing permanent classrooms at a price tag he estimated to be $80 million. No one objected that portables were a key issue, though total cost has not been solidified. The board directed the committee to come back with a plan that outlines categories for expenses — removing portables or safety upgrades, for instance — at the site and district level.
Last fall, community members attended town hall meetings to express renovation wishes at their campuses. Some of what they came up with — a bigger pool at San Marcos or gymnasiums at all of the junior highs, for instance — were dubbed the “pies in the sky” but nonetheless a barometer for what a dream school campus could look like.
Several facilities committee members also took to the podium Tuesday and noted the area “political climate change,” pointing to school facilities bonds floated by Santa Barbara City College and Montecito Union School that were unsuccessful last November. In 2012, the school district placed a parcel tax on the ballot that failed. The city, county, and SBCC are considering other area tax increases in some form or another in 2016, Ebenstein added. The issue could also hinge on whether or not Governor Jerry Brown would place a state school facilities bond on the ballot in 2016; many are skeptical he would. Without a state bond, school modernization continues to be the burden of area communities.