Injection of funds for schools

California voters approved to give schools throughout the state
a big boost with the recent passage of Proposition 47, and San
Benito County school officials hope to receive a piece of the
pie.
California voters approved to give schools throughout the state a big boost with the recent passage of Proposition 47, and San Benito County school officials hope to receive a piece of the pie.

The bond issue will inject $13.05 billion for building and repairing California public schools at every level. It is the largest bond debt ever for the state.

“This is going to provide a real shot in the arm for schools in California and it’s very welcome in the state and our community,” said Tim Foley, county superintendent of schools.

Most of the funds – $11.4 billion – will be allocated to schools for grades kindergarten through 12. Of that, $8.25 billion will be for new construction in schools.

San Benito High School officials anticipated the passage of the proposition and have already filed part of the paperwork required to receive money from the state. School officials hope to receive matching funds for the construction of a new freshman campus.

“We are eligible for half the cost to be paid for (the new freshman campus) by the state,” said Steve Delay, SBHS director of finance and operations. “That’s a good thing for us that it did pass.”

Delay was confident the high school will receive at least $3 million and could get up to $6 million for the first phase of the new campus for freshman students, which has a projected cost at $8.5 million. The entire project is expected to cost $21 million.

The measure requires schools to have matching funds for grants that are awarded. SBHS officials have already set aside $8 million for the project and a contract has been awarded for the first phase of construction, which is expected to be completed in the fall of 2004.

However, the state’s Regional Water Quality Control Board’s cease-and-desist order against Hollister for its sewage issues will not allow any new connections to the sewage system until the city builds a new treatment plant. The facility is expected to be completed in October 2005.

Aromas-San Juan Unified School District officials are seeking some of the available funds for a much needed renovation of its schools, Superintendent Jackie Munoz said.

The district – which has four schools – passed a bond measure in March for $11.2 million for modernization and renovation.

“We have modernization and renovation with Aromas School as well as new construction at Anzar High,” Munoz said. “We will be starting between March and June, but we have to get in line for (Prop. 47) money. We have to have all our plans ready.”

Hollister School District officials have not applied for any of the grant money yet, but hope to before the end of the fiscal year in June.

Since only two schools in Hollister split the approximately 2,000 middle-school students – Rancho San Justo and Marguerite Maze – district officials are considering building a new middle school, but are deliberating on where the location should be.

“We want to get an application as soon as possible, as quickly as we can get it together,” said Dean Bubar, HSD director of business operations. “At the same time, we need a clear direction on the type of project we need to pursue. At this point it’s still under discussion.”

Competition for the money is tight with applications that will most likely exceed the available funds. There is a backlog of applications and $20 million has already been approved, Delay said.

“This bond issue won’t last until the next ballot issue,” he said. “I guess there’s a lot of need out there.”

California legislators predict the state will need $32 billion, or 46,000 new classrooms, in the next five years and said the recent bond measure will not be enough.

Opponents of the proposition criticized how it will attribute to the growing debt in the state. Proposition 47 is the largest bond measure in state history. Along with two other bond measures that were passed on the Nov. 5 election, $18.5 billion was added to California’s debt.

The total cost of the bonds, which will be paid over 30 years, is projected to be about $26 billion with an estimated yearly interest of $873 million.

California is also preparing for a $11.1 billion bond sale – the largest one-time borrowing by a government agency in U.S. history – to pay off the budget shortfall caused by last year’s energy crisis. With about $27 billion in bond debt, California leads the nation in bond debt.

Gov. Gray Davis’ current budget plan includes paying off some of the state’s $23.6 billion budget deficit by selling bonds that will be paid off with the state’s share of the $206 billion settlement between states and tobacco companies.

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