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News items come from the U.S. Department of Educations's National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF).


El Monte Union lacks records, oversight for $148 million bond measure
-- Courtney Tompkins, The San Gabriel Valley Tribune

California: June 25, 2016 -- El Monte Union school district has spent millions of dollars in bond funds without any independent oversight for the past two years, which experts say is a violation of the law and raises several red flags. When asked for records of expenditures paid with funds under a $148 million construction bond – including supporting invoices, contracts and board approval of payments – the El Monte Union High School District was unable to provide any documents from January 2014 to the present. When voters approve a school bond measure in California, Proposition 39 requires school districts to establish bond-oversight committees charged with reviewing expenditures and financial reports and ensuring the projects promised to voters are done on budget and on time. El Monte’s committee has not met since January 2014, and as of June 2015, documents show the committee was disbanded. Attorney Kelly Aviles of the watchdog group Californians Aware called the revelation “troubling.” “We are talking about millions of dollars here, and they are not following any of the procedures,” she said. “It’s basically impossible for them to not have records. Either they’ve illegally deleted things or they are not properly responding to our records request and withholding responsive records.”


Long Beach Unified To Ask Voters For $1.5 Billion
-- Mike Guardabascio, Gazettes

California: June 23, 2016 -- The Long Beach Unified School District adopted a $896.7 million budget for the 2016-17 school year Thursday night – and will ask voters in November to approve a $1.5 billion bond measure to pay for campus upgrades in the district. The ballot measure comes eight years after the 2008 passage of Measure K, which gave the LBUSD $1.2 billion in property taxes in order to pay for construction and campus upgrades. That has included the construction of three new high schools, as well as significant renovation to Newcomb K-8 Academy and Jordan High. “This November, local voters will have an opportunity to decide whether LBUSD schools will receive needed improvements to meet 21st Century safety and environmental standards,” LBUSD Superintendent Chris Steinhauser in a statement. On Thursday, Steinhauser stressed that about $750 million of the bond would go toward the immediate implementation of air conditioning across the district, a subject that caused parents to circulate a formal petition in the fall of 2015. He also said that there is still a more than $3 billion need in construction funds to carry out the LBUSD’s facility master plan.


Refinancing of Yakima School District construction bonds to save $5.6 million
-- Rafael Guerrero, Yakima Herald

Washington: June 23, 2016 -- Property owners paying off the Yakima School District’s 2009 high school construction bonds will save a combined $5.6 million over the next 12 years thanks to recent refinancing. The borrowing rate on the bonds will drop almost 3 percentage points, from 4.85 percent to 1.87 percent. As a result, the overall tax rate should decrease as well. “If you and I could refinance our homes at 1.87 percent, we’d be happy,” said Mark Prussing, director of Vancouver-based Educational Service District 112’s financial advisory services and who serves as a pointperson on bonds for school districts across the state, including Yakima. The refinancing should save homeowners from 10 to 16 cents for $1,000 in assessed value, which translates to $20 to $32 annually for a $200,000 home, he said. About $42 million of the $114 million issued in 2009 were eligible for this sale, said Prussing.


How should Iowa school projects be funded?
-- Linh Ta, The Des Moines Register

Iowa: June 23, 2016 -- As more Iowa schools look to modernize facilities, Iowa legislators are discussing changes to Iowa's penny SAVE sales tax, which funds school construction and renovation. The tax has generated about $2.8 billion for Iowa schools since it was established in 2008. But some lawmakers have raised concerns about how the money is spent and whether there is enough oversight. "One of the faults with the present law is there is not enough voter input on how the 1 percent sales tax is used," said Tom Sands, R-Wapello, the chairman of the Iowa House Ways and Means Committee. "It was meant for classrooms, especially for schools that were struggling to update." Prior to the penny sales tax, most large school projects were funded through bond referendums, which require 60 percent support from local voters. Sands has proposed legislation that would require projects using sales tax revenue to receive voter approval once they reach a certain dollar amount.


Sunset Park Wants More Input on Where the City Builds Schools
-- John V. Santore, Sunset Park Patch

New York: June 23, 2016 -- Sunset Park community members want a greater say in how the city decides where to build new schools. Last week, Community Board 7 passed a resolution calling for the creation of a new task force that would "improve the efficiency of school siting and planning." The body's membership should include "parents, advocates and planning experts appointed by the NYC Council and the Mayor," the resolution stated, including individuals "from the neighborhood in which a proposed school is being considered." The mayor's office and the Department of Education did not immediately return requests for comment Thursday on the proposal.


Historic status for Stratford school site wins final OK in Arlington
-- SCOTT McCAFFREY, InsideNOVA

Virginia: June 22, 2016 -- Arlington County Board members on June 21 formally placed the Stratford school site into its own historic district, with the goal that its historic provenance can be retained even as the facility serves students in an increasingly technological environment. Fifteen months after county officials were first petitioned to give the school building historic status – and after a number of unique twists and turns – the board’s vote was unanimous. The Stratford site, located on Vacation Lane just north of Lee Highway, was deemed eligible for inclusion among the county’s historic sites not just for its mid-20th-century, International-style architecture, but also for being, in 1959, one of the first Virginia public schools integrated. “We’re not going to forget that history,” County Board Chairman Libby Garvey said just before the vote was taken. School Board members earlier had consented to historic status – something they had not done when a similar request was made for the Wilson School site in Rosslyn. But school officials extracted a key concession from county leaders: Decisions about future exterior changes to Stratford will be made by the County Board, rather than the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB).


Report: Bend needs 7 new schools to keep up with growth
-- Abby Spegman , The Bulletin

Oregon: June 22, 2016 -- Bend-La Pine Schools would have to open seven new schools — including two 1,500-student high schools — over the next 20 years to keep up with enrollment projections, according to a district committee tasked with identifying future facility needs. That committee’s report, which was presented to the school board last week, does not say when the new schools should open. Instead it predicts the years in which the district will be over capacity and where demand will be greatest, recommending the district probably would need a high school in southeast Bend by 2018 and an elementary school to pull from northeast and west Bend by 2020. The district’s most recent bond, passed in 2013, paid for construction of Silver Rail Elementary and Pacific Crest Middle schools, which opened this past fall. Those schools, in addition to new boundaries that determine which students go to which schools, alleviated overcrowding throughout the district. But that probably won’t last long. Bend-La Pine, which this year had about 17,500 students, expects to grow every year over the next 20 years, hitting nearly 24,000 students in 2034.


Dexter schools spending $275K after unexpected repairs, maintenance needs
-- Lauren Slagter, Mlive

Michigan: June 22, 2016 -- DEXTER, MI -- Dexter Community Schools didn't plan on a sinkhole opening up beneath the parking lot at Creekside Intermediate School this school year. The building and grounds department also didn't plan on the chiller at the high school going out and costing nearly $36,000 to repair. The DCS board of education approved an additional appropriation of $275,000 on Monday, June 20, to the building and grounds department's 2015-16 budget to cover those extra expenses and routine maintenance needs that have arisen in recent months. "We've had changes in directors over the years, and some of it is just trim the budget, trim the budget, trim the budget," Superintendent Chris Timmis said of delays in performing some routine maintenance. "Some of it is we put in new equipment with bonds 15, 20 years ago and, like a house, things start to go after a certain amount of time." Sean Burton, director of building and grounds, gave the board an explanation during Monday's meeting of how the extra $275,000 will be spent. That amount is a 7.7 percent increase on the $3.32 million originally budgeted for building and grounds in 2015-16.


Slowed growth delays school construction projects
-- Staff Writer, The Bay Net

Maryland: June 22, 2016 -- Leonardtown, MD -- Slower than anticipated growth in St. Mary’s County has caused the school board to delay plans for construction of a new elementary school and possibly a new facility that would start as a middle school and transition to a high school. The revisions are included in the 2016 Educational Facilities Master Plan presented recently to the St., Mary’s County Board of Education and which will be presented to the planning commission in August and forwarded to the county commissioners and the state. In order to get state monies for school construction, “The state requires 50 percent of the capacity to be in place at the time of planning approval and the remainder when occupancy occurs,” according to Director of Capital Planning and Green Schools Kimberly Howe. That is what happened with the new Captain Walter Francis Duke Elementary School in Leonardtown. Howe, in her report to the school board, said capacity needs are determined by the birth rate, housing market, jobs, migration, income and household size. State projections for anticipated growth in the county are historically higher than the local projections.


DCS maintenance crews get no time off for summer
-- Deangelo McDaniel, DecaturDaily.com

Alabama: June 22, 2016 -- When students return to Brookhaven Middle School in August, they will find the principal's office in a different spot. They also will see better lighting in the cafeteria, but they will not notice and probably won't care that insulation has been installed around pipes in the boiler room. For the two months between the end and beginning of school, Decatur City Schools maintenance workers and contractors will work on 36 projects that cost from as little as $600 to as much as $10,000. The district has a fleet of aging buildings, and summer is the only time when many of the repairs can be made, Decatur City Schools Project Manager Lee Edminson said. “We try to do many of these projects when students are not in class,” he said. Decatur City Schools has a 10-person maintenance crew that includes plumbers, electricians, carpenters, painters, HVAC technicians and a locksmith. They are responsible for 20 buildings and 1.67 million square feet of floor space. Chief Financial Officer Melanie Maples said the majority of the projects are paid from the maintenance budget, which is local money. The district will spend about $150,000 this summer on materials for work orders. “We try to handle all of them in-house,” Edminson said.

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