Money that could be spent to buy needed school supplies shouldn't be used on infrastructure, one Carson City resident opposed to the proposed school bond said Monday.
Nannette Moffatt became the first to speak against what school officials have called a no-frills bond aimed at making general repairs and improvements throughout Carson's 11 public schools.
Moffatt, who called herself the sacrificial opponent, said the school district has credibility problems. In previous years when a bond had been proposed, things didn't turn out as the district said they would, Moffatt said. She pointed to a bond that allowed the remodeling of Carson High School to handle 3,000 students. When voters were next asked to approve a $48 million bond in 1996 to build a new high school, Moffatt said school officials claimed they were overcrowded with 2,200 students. School officials said there was no room to expand the high school, but after the bond failed, found enough space to build a technology center, Moffatt said.
"Which proposal do we believe?" she asked. "Schools have urgent needs. The most important tool should be text books."
At Monday's League of Women Voters candidate forum, Carson City School District Superintendent Jim Parry, Director of Operations Mike Mitchell and School Board Clerk Bob Crowell, spoke in favor of the proposed tax-neutral $18 million school bond. The bond would provide for everything from increasing school safety and technology, to adding air conditioning to schools that don't have it and repairing asphalt parking lots.
"All schools will benefit from this bond," Mitchell said.
Residents asked questions about the proposed bond through both handwritten notes and via telephone. The discussion was broadcast on Carson Access Television. One resident asked why maintenance couldn't be paid for out of the school district's budget.
Crowell said the school district does receive about $500,000 in maintenance money each year, but the district has 30- and 40-year-old properties that need more maintenance than that money can provide for.
"Can we live without this, probably. Should we? No," Crowell said.
Moffatt said the school district funnels too much money into salaries and takes money away from building supplies.
"It's not a choice of they can or can't do it. It's where they funnel the money," Moffatt said. "I feel dollars could be better spent on priorities other than bricks and mortar, and I think that text books should be the first and foremost priority."
Parry said all students in Carson City should have text books for their classes, and if they didn't, he would find out why not. Parry said the school district is simply asking voters to address safety issues that have come up only recently as well as maintain their investment in public education. If voters turn down the bond proposal, their property tax rate will continue to go down, but schools will still need to be fixed and students will still need the extra technology.
"You're the owner, we're the caretakers," Parry said. "We're just recommending improvements."