State shorts Monterey County school repairs by $19 million, Alisal Union appeals.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
The California Department of Education owes $3.9 million for a new HVAC system at Seaside High School that the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District will probably never see.
That funding is part of the state’s Emergency Repair Program for basic infrastructure needs, which was set up in a lawsuit settlement eight years ago. Payments totaling $800 million are supposed to help fix crumbling schools statewide.
But with the state Legislature stalling payments, less than half of what was promised has been paid, as reported last week by California Watch.
Monterey County schools have received about $12.8 million so far, but another $19.2 million is caught in the pipeline.
MPUSD replaced the Seaside High boilers, thanks to a bond measure voters overwhelmingly approved in 2010. “If we didn’t have the bond, we’d be going without heat in some schools,” Associate Superintendent Dan Albert says.
He’d still like to see the state make good on its payments, but Albert thinks it will take another lawsuit over the breached settlement to get ERP funds moving again.
Alisal Union School District isn’t waiting around for another round of litigation, and is set to appeal to the State Allocation Board Sept. 26.
Alisal Union received $7.5 million in ERP money to fix three schools with leaky roofs and walls, and completed repairs in 2007. But the work ended up costing $17.8 million, for which the school district hopes to get at least partially reimbursed. The district hopes to collect up to $6 million with the appeal.
“The fact of the matter is, we’re never going to get any more money under the ERP,” Assistant Superintendent Jim Koenig says. “We want to get as much as we can, as soon as we can. We think [appealing] is a much better option.”
Alisal Union voters also supported a bond that the district used to complete the repairs – just before property values tanked. (Koenig says the district’s assessed property value has plummeted 40 percent in the four years since the bond measure passed.)
Under the ERP settlement, the state was supposed to make payouts over several years. But with the 2012-13 budget, those payments stalled. Local school officials don’t expect them to continue.
“The short answer is, the money is not there,” says Assemblyman Bill Monning, D-Carmel. “I don’t want to sound insensitive to the needs of the schools, but school infrastructure support unfortunately is juxtaposed against other immediate needs like dialysis support.”