Foster City citizens shorted two cents on bond

With a symbolic “good luck,” the foundation fighting to give Foster City its own high school was sent looking for funding elsewhere Monday night, possibly dooming the project — unless $15 million can be raised for construction.

In a 3-2 vote, the City Council elected not to seek public input about a city bond to fund the construction of an “education center,” that could be used by Envision Schools and the Foster City High School Foundation to house a 500-student charter high school.

The group was asking the city to seek public input on a possible general-obligation bond to pay for the construction of the building — to be built on four of the 15 acres south of the civic center — that would host students from across the region, not just Foster City.

The land is set aside for a charter school until June 2008.

“It’s just not appropriate to use tax dollars for it. For the amount of money that would be at risk on the part of the city, the benefit is minimal,” said Councilman Rick Wykoff, one of the three council members who voted to take no action to help the foundation.

But Mayor Ron Cox — who leaves office at the end of the year — said the decision should have gone to the voters in order to clear up any concern that the will of the people is being ignored.

“I would have been happy to see it go to a vote of the people, because that would have finalized it one way or another, with the citizens deciding,” he said.

Foundation President Phyllis Moore said her organization was even willing to pay the $30,000 they were told it would cost to fund a public study on interest in a bond for the charter school.

“What do we do with a council that has expressly said ‘we will make the decision, and we don’t want the input of the people of Foster City?’” Moore said.

Unless the San Mateo Union High School District or another agency can come up with a way to fund the site, the project may fall through, following in the pattern of repeated past attempts to construct a high school on that site.

Wykoff said he believes the charter school is the last chance for Foster City to build its own high school.

“I hope they’re successful, that’s why we’ve reserved the four acres for them,” Wykoff said.

Moore said the foundation and Envision will regroup and look for other funding options before they lose their chance at developing the land.

“It certainly is a stumbling block, but the final nail is not in the coffin,” she said.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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