Bond money finally reaching school construction jobs

(Calif.) The State Allocation Board awarded $191 million in state support for school facility projects at 63 school districts at a hearing last week.

The action, which was approved by consent, requires districts who are set to receive the money to submit finalized paperwork to the Office of Public School Construction within 90 days.

Staff of the OPSC also announced that they received 176 applications from 85 school districts for the next round of funding from bond money set aside for career technical education facilities.

The list of projects to be undertaken with the $191 is a mix of both new construction and modernization needs. The awarded districts are at the top of a long list of applications that have sat largely unfunded for years because of a lack of state matching funds.

The money now being allocated is tied to the $7 billion bond measure, Proposition 51, to support school construction, which was approved by voters in November, 2016.

Last summer, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders agreed to include $655 million from the bond measure for the 2017-18 budget.

In January, Brown proposed using a similar amount, $640 million, for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

A section of Proposition 51 set aside $500 million for districts to use to construct, modernize or purchase equipment for their CTE programs.

In August, the SAB approved $125 million in funding and opened the application process. That process closed in February.

With the release of the revised May budget only a few weeks away, there is some pressure on the Brown administration to release more of the bond money.

The governor, who has been critical in the past of the existing fiscal relationship between the state and school districts when it comes to construction spending, twice signaled his opposition to the Legislature placing a statewide bond measure on the ballot. The 2016 measure that was eventually approved by voters only came about after school groups joined with the building industry to qualify the borrowing through the initiative process.

Last year, the non-partisan Legislative Analyst noted that virtually no new state matching funds for school projects have been available since 2012. As a result, there was a backlog at that time of about $2 billion in shovel-ready projects.

The backlog is now closer to $3.1 billion. more