With Fort Worth school district officials and consultants scrambling to find $45 million in savings on the $490 million bond program approved by voters last year, parents and coaches at Southwest and South Hills high schools should be very careful when they say they don’t need $1 million each for field house improvements.
Apparently they want to spend the money on artificial turf for practice fields instead.
But that’s not what voters approved. In fact, artificial turf for practice fields was considered and specifically rejected as the bond program was being compiled and priorities were set for the November 2013 election.
Right or wrong, turf has the image of not being a necessity, and officials reasonably worried that its inclusion would hurt chances of voter approval.
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Money for field houses was a selling point.
The idea was that $1 million for each of 13 high schools and another at Scarborough Handley Field could ensure that every school has adequate facilities that meet requirements under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in educational and extracurricular activities.
But one parent on a citizens’ bond advisory committee told administrators at a meeting earlier this month, apparently referring to parents at Southwest and South Hills, that “they are concerned about the way they can disburse their funds for their athletic departments.”
Their funds? Back up. Never forget that these are taxpayer funds. And the people who voted in the bond election were very specific about what their money was to be used for.
The district is already on thin ice. It turns out that estimates of construction costs used to compile the bond program were overly optimistic, and some of the projects now either won’t happen or will be scaled back in order to keep the total price tag from going over $490 million.
Hence the expected $45 million in cuts.
It’s true that two Fort Worth high schools have artificial turf on their practice fields, both paid for by booster clubs. It’s true that many other high schools in nearby districts have turf fields.
But none of that justifies rejecting what voters said and buying something else instead.