Firm support for Safe Routes To Schools (SRTS) programs — from both sides of the dais — highlighted the June 8 Encinitas City Council meeting, which featured city staff presenting its proposal for the 2016-17 Operating and Capital Budgets.
While the budget will be officially approved at the June 22 meeting, the council heard details of more than 30 city projects on June 8, eventually voting 5-0 to instruct city staff to finalize the budget basically as presented.
Out of nearly $79 million designated for General Fund Expenditures and Other Use, $905,000 is being earmarked for improvements near three Encinitas school sites.
“I support this budget proposal and I specifically support the Safe Routes To Schools projects,” said Councilwoman Catherine Blakespear. “I think that it’s really important that we address these safety concerns around our schools. I think, as we heard from all of the public testimony today, the public is crying out for public safety improvements.
“(These projects) are good value for the money. I think the process was a good process, coming from the school and I commend (city manager Karen Brust) for organizing it that way.”
Councilmen Tony Kranz and Mark Muir also specifically mentioned their support for the SRTS projects in the proposed budget.
The SRTS spending finds $305,000 going for improvements in the Cardiff School District, with Paul Ecke Central Elementary School and San Dieguito Union High School District receiving $300,000 each.
Cardiff officials and parents — several of whom, including Cardiff School principal Julie Parker, spoke in public comment at the meeting — will see new sidewalks constructed, other pedestrian enhancements and a new entrance to nearby Encinitas Community Park constructed. The park entrance will open up a key thoroughfare between Cardiff School and Ada Harris, which the speakers said is a route countless families can use to drop their kids off at the two schools.
Paul Ecke had an even larger contingent of speakers, with principal Adriana Chavarin heading the list. Their pleas to the council to accept the planned expenditure were granted as the school will get a queuing lane, a parking lane, a new sidewalk, and a retaining wall and a raised median to accommodate those other changes.
The San Dieguito Union upgrades will put a sidewalk on the north side of Requeza Street between Westlake and Sunset High, which will not only benefit Sunset, but also enhance the route for students headed to nearby San Diegiuto Academy and Ocean Knoll Elementary. The San Diegiuto Union improvements also include a crosswalk and bulb-out to be installed at the corner of Nardo Road and Requeza Street.
Ocean Knoll had more requests, outlined in a detailed presentation from Steve Gerkin during public comment, and 9-year-old Simon Bye even spoke on behalf of Capri Elementary.
Encinitas Director of Public Works Glenn Pruim said those two schools’ requests were part of a flood that the city received after the initial round of inquiry had passed.
“The process was that we first went to the superintendents and we charged the superintendents to work with their schools and their parents,” Brust added. “The projects that we are representing to (the council), are the ones that we received from the superintendents.
“What we can do is share these additional projects with the superintendents and let them weigh-in for future (funding).”
There is hope for those schools, however, as Pruim and City Finance Director Tim Nash said that the budget recommendation includes $200,000 which has been held back for “projects that come up.”