Just fix the pool

By Dave Patterson

It’s pretty hard for me to be sympathetic for the guy down the street. He had a big debt load, new house and car, plus a huge balloon payment looming. His swimming pool had some cracks, broken ladders and failing pumps.

Because he thinks big, not prudently, he decided rather than fix the pool he would bulldoze the thing and build a huge aquatic center. In his mind there would always be plenty of money, so he was bewildered when he went bankrupt and lost everything.

More importantly, he couldn’t understand when his neighbors refused to help him out financially, and why none of them felt empathy for his situation.

The poor decision maker in this story is how I see the Ramona Unified School District, where the decision makers always think big. As an example, the swimming pool at the high school needs repairs. The repair ideas have recently ballooned into what might end up a large community aquatic center, paid for with grants, and potentially through the school bond that will be floated in the future. So, rather than just fix the pool, we are looking at more debt and potentially more maintenance cost into the future. Somehow bigger and better has trumped fiscal prudence regarding the high school swimming pool.

The fact that the district does not have the money to fix the pool, or the roofs, or the carpets, or to install good soap dispensers in the bathrooms, is compounded by looming COP payments that will cripple the operating budgets, unless a bond is passed, or as the bond can be characterized, a sympathetic neighbor donating $30M.

We don’t really need an aquatic center for the community, and having one built as part of the school bond would be a liability toward passing a school bond in my view, rather than a way to garner support for it.

I base my viewpoint in the people I talk to, people who want to see fiscal constraints in place before they will consider voting for a school bond. Regarding the community aquatic center, the people in the Estates already have pools to use. The people in town and across the valley that have the means already have pools, and these two groups of voters aren’t likely to see the benefit in paying more taxes to build a community aquatic center.

The people left are those living within their means who don’t like our taxes being used on unnecessary projects, and those without means who aren’t likely to vote anyway. I see the community aquatic center as having the real potential to be a school bond killer.

How can we show some fiscal prudence to potential school bond voters? Just fix the pool.

Dave Patterson is a Ramona resident.

Related posts:

  1. Adult swim program starts at RHS pool
  2. Staying cool at Ramona Community Pool
  3. Swim lessons start June 21 at community pool
  4. What’s next, Ramona?
  5. Bulldogs win pool at freshman volleyball tournament

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Posted by Maureen Robertson on Jul 12 2013. Filed under Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

21 Comments for “Just fix the pool”

  1. Resident of Ramona

    I had no idea this was being talked about. Thanks for the informative article. I sure don't want to pay for an aquatic center. My own pool needs to be fixed and I can't afford to do that. I agree. Just fix the pool.

  2. Jane Tanaka MD

    My understanding was that a nonprofit group is applying for grants through SD County for this… that its NOT being discussed at all as part of any future Bond measure.

  3. Torry Brean

    Jane is right, this is very misleading. The pool was never designed properly in the first place. This is not an issue of just fixing broken aspects, but making the pool so it can participate in CIF matches and generally not be such an embarrassment. Nobody has mentioned the idea of a school bond, and I am sure that would resoundingly fail if they did. This is an effort by private citizens and businesses to try and make our town better, and once again they are being damned for their efforts by people who know nothing about it.

  4. M.Workman

    Come on Dave. At least try to have a fact or two as you tell your tale of woe. At this time this is a private venture/idea to enhance the current situation. Your narrow view of the world and your never ending desire to "share it" with us is unfair and unfortunate. What you refer to as thinking big is actually some locals trying to think "out of the box" to fix an issue. Get some facts or keep your Chicken Little antics to yourself please. The rest of us appreciate folks who are willing to step forward with ideas.

    • Dave Patterson

      Hi M. Workman
      Funny that you hadn't heard of this conversation on the school bond being used to help build an aquatic center, but I didn't dream it up believe me. Either way, I am happy that all these denials mean that the idea is dead. Better chance for the school bond to pass without it. I'll let you know what the next crazy idea is, and maybe we can kill it too.

  5. Big Daddy

    I've been vocal in the past about wanting the school district to get on solid financial footing before investing in anything like another athletic facility. That said, if there is a group of citizens who are putting their own time into investigating the feasibility of an aquatic center that will not involve district funds, then I applaud their efforts and hope that they can accomplish something. A well designed facility of this type can generate revenue, decrease maintenance costs (over the amounts required to sustain our current pool), and be a valuable community asset. This team of residents should just make sure they are prepared to present a viable business plan to the community. If it makes fiscal sense, I'll be the first one to publicly back it.

  6. Jane Tanaka MD

    It is easy for the public to misperceive the motives of community non-profit groups trying help RUSD.
    One dad , whose little girl played with soap bubbles at our FORUS booth , shook his head and said… "You need a new board instead:" In his mind, our non-profit is enabling the district… not trying to help the kids.Yes, the board should budget for basic things like soap.. and I'm sure it will.. when they make sure they are not headed for insolvency. Meanwhile kids get sick.
    Likewise, the pool at RHS is in such poor shape that it may need more than fixing.. it may need replacing.
    Same for the leaky roofs … they've been patched and bandaided, and up to 11 buckets in one classroom are needed on a rainy day.
    We are talking extremely deferred maintenance.
    We can try yet again to pass a bond..That will take years.in the mean time, we have work to do.
    With Dave as our watchdog, we promise we wont misbehave. And he is right about a prospective School Bond NOT including things that would be considered a luxury by many members of the community.This is the closest that I've heard Dave possibly supporting a School Bond measure… maybe?

  7. Dave T

    A pool supports athletic programs. Like it or no athletics are an extension of our classrooms. So I guess learning has become a luxury? Our neighbors such as Grossmont Union (Prop U) build and support Pool projects at multiple High Schools and San Dieguito Union build and support stadium turf and track and field projects this coming Fall at two of their High School sites. The communities surrounding these schools will use the facilities, just like citizens of Ramona using a Pool at the High School

    • Guest

      Ask the parents with students in Alpine who voted to get a high school in Alpine, which is part of the Grossmont Union School District, exactly where their funding went to get the new high school they voted on. it went to fixing or building new projects not in Alpine.

      Not a good example of the neighbors. They stole from one community to support other closer communities.

      • Dave T

        If I'm not mistaken the Alpine School would be built if certain enrollment conditions were met that I believe haven't been met and if I'm not mistaken these conditions were in the original bond language.

  8. Dave Patterson

    I would support a school bond if the district was serious about being fiscally responsible. As it is the COP loan payments, taken out by the previous school board, will be around $10M per year in about 10 years. There is no way the school district can pay that. Therefore they either pass a school bond, or surrender to the state. There are no other options for this fiscal train wreck. Responsible management for me would include a school bond with fiscal constraints documented, and a backup plan such as surrendering to the state within some time if the bond fails. Anyone want to sit down and outline some fiscal restraint demands that we can present to the school district?

    • Jane Tanaka MD

      In August, there is supposed to be a community meeting, hosted by the RUSD Board, to discuss fiscal planning. It is my understanding that the Ramona Parents Coalition also plans to meet and do more research on these issues.
      Dave, the Ramona Parents Coalition has a facebook website… perhaps you would consider contacting Shelly?

  9. Ramona Resident

    Dave – What do you have against athletics? Athletics is an integral part of the educational experience, as important as any classroom activity. It has been my experience that those who participated in athletics in high school or college make better leaders and better employees. This has been the case in nearly every case and is based on 30+ years of experience working for multi-billion dollar businesses. I can tell who played sports and who did not almost immediately. I would contend that if the purpose of education is to prepare students to be productive members of society, then not supporting facilities that enhance the athletic experience would do a disservice to our children.

  10. The RPC

    The members of the Ramona Parents Coalition are currently scattered about on various summer vacations. We have, however, previously discussed potential support for a bond measure – but only if the district/board makes legitimate efforts at alternative fiscal plans and/or more creative asset management practices. What does that mean? What is possible? How can the district save money without making cuts? Are there alternatives to achieving fiscal stability beyond the one obvious approach – asking property owners to pay higher taxes with a bond measure? We don't know, which is why at least one of our members will be attending the August 17th fiscal planning workshop with the board and other district managers. We have a lot to learn.

    Regarding the pool, we agree with some of what Big Daddy stated above – we support the efforts of community members for the development of an aquatic center if the plan is financially prudent and doesn't involve district funds beyond what is already being spent on maintenance for the current dilapidated pool facility. We agree that a district so broke they can't budget for adequate bathroom soap has no business spending additional funds on an athletic facility. We look forward to learning more about this plan as is takes shape. It sounds interesting!

    • Rational Ramona

      Your comment about the District not budgeting adequately for bathroom soap is not based on fact – the fact is that that boys restroom at RHS where the prison-style soap dispensers are being installed has been destroyed by the male students. When a new dispenser is installed, it is destroyed by the students. And it is the only restroom on campus that has been regularly receiving this treatment. Its not that we can't afford soap or dispensers, it is that the students are not respectful of school property. Learning that respect starts at home, so what is really the problem here?

  11. Dave T

    I’m not going to touch on how the District spends and prioritizes in its general fund- I would certainly need to be educated on the issue- but I think you will find in most places there are unhappy people with where and how funds are allocated. It shouldn’t be the reason why citizens should turn down a bond program. One solution, after bond passage the District appoints an oversight committee to make sure what was passed is being followed.

    The problem for Districts that need to pass a bond to improve their facilities stems from a public perception issue where bonds have gone badly in other places. But check out California Assembly Bill 182. The bill sets a 4-to-1 limit on the ratio of total debt to principal for each bond. In the past, there were some Districts around the state at 20-1. So everybody will be set up better moving forward.

  12. Dave T

    How you manage the bond is another issue. There are also ways to save. Such as having district staff manage the program rather than a costly outside Program Management Firm or using Construction Management Firms for only the larger projects. The mantra should be less consulting and more building.

    The reality is building and improving sites these days is hard without a bond, and just like other schools Ramona relies on the state for funding because California property tax doesn’t supply the resources needed to build and modernize schools and relying on the state these days for funding is a tricky proposition.

    I think most Bond programs and even the ones I mentioned above include upgrades to athletic facilities, in fact I probably wouldn’t vote for a bond without these kinds of upgrades. I would say there is a significant percentage of kids that participate in athletics- so why let those facilities fall by the wayside?

  13. guest

    I don't see anything wrong with parent groups, etc., setting up fundraising committees, or even allowing outside entities, commercial operations "naming" rights, like they do other arenas. Students are used to seeing names. As long as the companies are representative of common decency, it wouldn't hurt.

    • Dave T

      Tough call but I'm not really for the market buying publicity not in schools at least, I would rather see residents contributing for the public good. If we were to name a facility I would rather see some school pride and name it after a famous alumn. And what is your limit on who bids for naming rights- so let's say you collect on the naming rights but then have to defend a 1st amendment case on a party you deny. Or let's name it something and then have admin. field questions about company XYZ's questionable practices, ethics, stance on certain issues.

  14. Jane Tanaka MD

    In addition to the pool, there are many things on the list of delayed maintenance items.. replacing roofs, termite eaten beams and walls, peeling paint. Please contact us at Friends of Ramona Unified Schools if you are willing to help. We are starting off with a small project, vandalproof soap dispensers and soap. We have collected enough for 17 soap dispensers and 2 years worth of soap for each dispenser, but need 100 dispensers for the student bathrooms. We need about $17,000 more in donations, and would like to cross this off the list by August 26th, when school reopens! contact me at janetanaka@sv-mail.com for more information.

    • guest

      How much for one dispenser and one year of soap (as opposed to two)? I am intending to support forus and you as I can – I commend you and forus for your efforts. I wonder if each of the admininstrators and teachers would be willing to pony up a few bucks to provide for basic sanitation needs? Seems like Bob and admin ought to be able to buy soap during the second year – after all, arn't they the ones touting a safe environment for the students-even though the admin cannot, apparently, provide for basic sanitation needs such as soap, dispensers and, if some of the blogs I have read are correct, tp.

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