Not all education dollars reduced
May 6, 2003
In the face of the recent education budget shortfalls by California, and in particular the funding of kindergarten through 12th-grade programs, the School Facilities Program remains strong.
Lake Tahoe Unified School District has been the beneficiary of a significant share of state funds. Proposition 1A, passed in November 1998, provided $5.66 million to the district. Proposition 47, passed in November 2002, provided $7.3 million in reimbursements for construction and will provide an additional $2.78 million for future projects. Total disbursement of funds from the state from the two propositions will total $15.74 million.
The state funds have provided supplemental dollars to our School Facility Improvement Bond. In May 1999, the LTUSD community passed Measure C, a $17 million bond to fund the improvement of school facilities in our district.
The state’s School Facility Program requires matching funds from the receiving district. Measure C provided those matching funds without impacting the general fund dollars. Lake Tahoe Unified School District does not expend general fund dollars on projects identified as facility improvements to be funded by local and state bond proceeds.
To qualify for funding from the state, the district must comply with a complex series of requirements. These vary from the timely and accurate submittal of applications to a detailed development of construction plans and contract documents. Consultants, architects, engineers and district personnel expend significant effort and time to develop and assemble these documents prior to submitting them to the state for approval and funding.
Lake Tahoe Unified School District has been exceptionally successful in this process, qualifying for the maximum allowable reimbursements from the state. The district has also moved forward quickly on these facility projects, expending the bond proceeds in a timely manner (see recap in inset).
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Future district projects include modernizations of Meyers and Sierra House elementary schools, structural strengthening of the South Tahoe Middle School gym, completion of modernizations at South Tahoe Middle School and South Tahoe High School, and improvements at the LTUSD bus garage and maintenance facility. These projects will be completed in various stages over the next five building seasons.
Though the facility improvement funding remains strong, it cannot offset the effects of lost enrollment and cuts from the state. The Measure C Bond funds and Schools Facility Program funds can only be used for building or site improvements listed and/or approved through the legislation that created them. In addition, when a district accepts funds from the state, it must commit 3 percent of our unrestricted general fund budget to the maintenance of our facilities. The state intends for the funds to provide appropriate buildings for our students and staff. The state lawmakers have been firm that the funds cannot be used to supplement the daily operation of School Districts.
So in spite of the reductions and cutbacks affecting our district, we still are receiving funding that can only be spent on facility improvements. Expansion projects are no longer on our future project list, but the continued upgrade-and- strengthening projects continue to be an important focus for our district.
Steve Morales is facilities director for Lake Tahoe Unified School District. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org