Sports facilities are high priority for funding

Newport-Mesa's school board this week showed strong support for funding improvements to sports facilities at its high schools when board members decided which capital improvement projects to prioritize.

At its meeting Tuesday night, Newport-Mesa Unified School District's board of trustees ranked a dozen projects in an effort to guide district staff toward which to explore further.

The district has about $20 million in one-time funds and needs to decide what to do with the money, Deputy Supt. Paul Reed told the board.

Most of that funding is coming from California's decision to do away with local redevelopment agencies and distribute their assets to local governmental bodies, such as school districts.

"That warrants, certainly, a conversation at the board level," Reed said.

He presented 12 capital improvement projects to the board that could be fully or partially funded with the money.

They included items like adding security fencing around the high schools for about $1.8 million or installing air conditioning at every school for about $42 million.

In an anonymous vote, the seven board members individually ranked each project on a scale of one to 10.

The more points a project got out of the possible 70, the more weight it carried in prioritization.

Reed emphasized that this vote was in no way binding and moving forward with any project would require another vote.

The four top-ranked projects revolved around athletics at the district's high schools.

Renovating Davidson Field at Newport Harbor High School was No. 1 with 60 points.

The revamp would replace the track and field, refurbish seating, add lights and include new buildings like restrooms.

It would likely cost about $14.5 million, Reed said.

Davidson Field's renovation was a project promised under Measure F in 2005.

The ballot initiative authorized the district to issue $282-million in bonds to fund construction across the district, but projects have been stalled due to the economic downturn.

Building a pool locker room at Corona del Mar High School came in second at 58 points and would likely cost $1.1 million.

New football fields and tracks at Costa Mesa High School and CdM came in third and fourth, respectively, at 54 and 48 points.

Those projects could cost about $6 million to $12 million each, according to estimates given to the district.

Many of the top projects already had some money in place from community fundraising, something board members noted as an advantage before the vote.

Fifth on the list was building a performing arts center at Estancia High School, another project promised under Measure F, but one that could cost $27 million, Reed said.

Items that fell to the bottom of the list were erecting security fencing at elementary schools or installing air conditioning.

Trustee Karen Yelsey said she was happy to get the process moving on these projects, noting she'd been anticipating it since Reed informed her about the extra money on graduation day last month.

"I'm really excited that we get to do at least some of these things." she said.

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