Along with school boards urging approval of new funds through Proposition 38, you'd think they would be frugal with the funds they already have — but not the Huntington Beach City School District board. For the last 18 months, they have expended or obligated $420,000 from reserves in their school operating fund to sweeten a sale of their district office and surrounding parkland at the closed LeBard Elementary School to potential developers. In addition, HBCSD is expected to ask the City Council to waive $90,000 now, and $600,000 later, in fees associated with their proposal to convert five acres of open parkland and baseball fields to a housing development.
But it gets worse! Six existing baseball fields, a playground area, a clubhouse and a tennis court are to be razed and then rebuilt with either the school board or developer spending another $2.5 million for that exercise. A LeBard subcommittee within the City Council is reported to be in favor of the proposal and fee waiver since another five acres of HBCSD would be ceded to the city. When all is said and done, though, the surrounding neighborhoods, which have been left out of the planning and backroom deals, will have less parkland and a lot more traffic than they have now.
And the sole impetus driving these machinations? HBCSD wants to use the proceeds to buy a new district office building commensurate with their perceived status. Since the proposal is still in its formative stage, there is still time to stop more waste so that the residents in the surrounding neighborhoods are respected and needed school funds are protected from hubris such as this.
Measure Z will hurt libraries
If Measure Z passes, the citizens of HB will no longer pay the special property tax for city employee pension funds, but the city still has the obligation to fund the pension. A shortfall of $4.2 million annually is predicted which will reduce our quality of life further.
The library is poised to close two branches and cut back hours and services at remaining branches. A large part of HB will not have library services, and the remaining branches cannot accommodate the loss.
The children's library provides the following to name a few:
1. Story time for toddlers and preschoolers — Main Street, Banning and Murphy alone are averaging 3,000 children.
2. Cultural and entertainment programs — this year, we had over 150 children join us at Main Street and Banning for our summer shows.
3. Grandparents and Books — At Banning and Main Street, over 300 children would be deprived of this wonderful program, which is especially good for children who do not have grandparents living close to HB.
4. Summer Reading Program — In 2010/2012, the HB library branches had 15,000 children sign up for this educational program.
Our children are our most precious resource and our future. We in HB always talk about maintaining our wonderful "quality of life," but we cannot keep that quality if library branches close — where do those children go? Our HB children's library is seen as one of the premier children's libraries in the state, but this distinction may possibly be eroded by continuing budget cuts.
With the loss of some school libraries, closing our public libraries will deprive children of a safe haven to learn about the joys of reading and the culture and entertainment that is provided by our library.
While it may be noteworthy to send a message to the unions that we must change the way retirement is funded, to reduce public services with no reductions in city obligations toward retirement or a viable fiscal plan to replace the $4.2 million is just crazy.
The writer is the president of Friends of the Children's Library.