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Sports stadiums or theater?

District can't decide how to divvy up funds between its high schools. There isn't enough money to fund all the projects.

September 12, 2013|By Hannah Fry | This post has been corrected, as noted below.

After more than an hour of heated debate Tuesday night, Newport-Mesa school officials failed to decide how to allocate $15.8 million of one-time facilities money among the district's high schools.

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District board of trustees voted 4 to 3 to postpone discussion about the funds until Nov. 1 and create an equity committee to assist the board with divvying up the the amount remaining from the original $25 million in facilities money. The trustees previously approved $9.2 million to go to Newport Harbor High School for its sports stadium.

"The board keeps stringing everyone along," Trustee Katrina Foley said. "It's very frustrating. I feel like I've failed the community at this point."

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Deputy Supt. Paul Reed, the district's chief business official, presented a breakdown of the funds and requested that trustees begin to make decisions to earmark the money.

The limited pool of money was slated in July to help fund the district's next tier of projects, which consists of sports stadiums at Costa Mesa and Corona del Mar high schools and a theater at Estancia High School.

Reed outlined the costs for each of the proposed stadiums: $6.5 million to $12.5 million for CdM and $7.5 million to $11.5 million for Mesa. The estimates vary depending on the amount of seating the stadiums will have and whether they include things like concession stands and bathrooms. Estancia's performing arts center is projected to cost $27 million.

The district doesn't have enough money to fund all of the projects.

However, Estancia's theater is one of a dozen projects specifically promised under Measure F, a $282-million bond initiative approved by voters in 2005. The stadiums were not promised under Measure F.

Reed told the board that the theater won't be funded until 2020, when he anticipates the district will collect Measure F money.

Trustee Martha Fluor expressed concern that the money isn't being allocated equitably and that Estancia will have to wait years for its performing arts center.

"One high school is being ignored," she said. "We've said the kids at Estancia don't matter because they already have an athletic field."

Throughout the discussion, Foley and Fluor, as well as several of the other trustees, yelled at and talked over one another as community members looked on in disbelief.

"I'm unglued and I'm about ready to walk out," Fluor said.

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