The budget cuts at our local school are terrible and unfortunate to say the least, but I believe they are symptomatic of an issue that has and is hurting our long-term viability as a community: the lack of basic services.
Coverage of the school lately tends to focus on monetary shortfalls and deficits, but it doesn’t seem to address or explore what appears to be the real cause of declining student enrollment. We all know the obvious correlation between the latter and budget shortfalls.
Our bubble’s major micro issue
So, why is student enrollment declining in one of the most desirable communities in the country? There are certain national trends that are not favorable. However, I would suggest looking at more micro issues because of the unique little bubble we live in. Is it reasonable to think that young families are either leaving the area or not considering it because of the lack of basic services? I believe so. This is easily substantiated by local realtors, residents, home buyers, home sellers, lagging real estate prices and continued vacant space in the village.
The community is thankfully finally getting internet service, which is long overdue but probably still a year or so out from being fully implemented. We all know the internet is mandatory for all school levels, not to mention business and day-to-day life. Cell service is another basic service that is extremely poor in the Ranch, as we all experience daily.
When the village felt like a village
We have only lived here for approximately eight years. When my wife and I moved here along with our youngest of four who at the time was a freshman at Torrey Pines, there was a sandwich shop, an ice cream shop, some modest retail and a grocery store. The village felt like a village with young families and children in it because there were basic services. We now have to drive 40 minutes round trip for any essential items (longer if you want an ice cream or a sandwich).
The largest and oldest retailer, McNally’s, is now leaving the village after 30 years, and the trend is quite obvious. The village is now full of banks, real estate, title, escrow, insurance companies, and the like. Even with the commercial office use, vacancies continue to mount.
Until the community decides to do something about basic services and get the village feeling like a village again, the student enrollment will continue to decline along with the continued slump in real estate. As the real estate continues to slump, there will be less and less need for all the real estate, escrow, title, banks, offices, etc. What will we be left with? I would suggest a school with less students, more budget cuts, deficits and a dwindling community.
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