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

Construction on schedule for Natrona County high schools
-- Heather Richards, Casper Star Tribune

Wyoming: June 26, 2016 -- When workers recently pulled back the window covers in the Natrona County High School auditorium they found stained glass that had likely been installed in the 1920s. The discovery came near the end of renovations at the school, one of many projects nearing completion this summer in the Natrona County School District, including the new Pathways Innovation Center and Roosevelt High School, which will share a campus. The current phase of renovations at Natrona County High School, including a complete overhaul of the John F. Welsh Auditorium, will also be completed before the fall. Construction at the main building of Kelly Walsh High School was finished mid-June. All major construction projects in the district are on schedule, said Dennis Bay, executive director of business services. The total cost for June construction was over $5 million. As of early this month, Roosevelt and Pathways had cost about $41 million, according to district records. The majority of funding for the roughly $200 million worth of construction and renovations on Kelly Walsh and Natrona County schools comes from the state, Bay said. Though Wyoming’s schools budget has faced cuts this year due to the downturn in the state’s economy, construction and major maintenance is funded separately. Current local projects were approved and funded years ago.

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.”

Local school districts still waiting for some state funding
-- BRITNEY MILAZZO, Centre Daily Times

Pennsylvania: June 25, 2016 -- It’s a waiting game for local school districts eligible for PlanCon reimbursement. They have to wait until the state is granted a loan that would help pay back districts for construction and renovation projects. Penns Valley Area business manager Jef Wall said he predicts money won’t start rolling in for PlanCon reimbursements until December. At least that’s the earliest date he heard through the grapevine, he said. “It’s not surprising after the way this year has gone,” Wall said. “We should have gotten it sometime in April. … That’s why we don’t plan our budgets around things like PlanCon. The state is too unpredictable.” When the state’s budget impasse ended in March, monies were dispersed to school districts but didn’t provide funding for PlanCon. According to a report from Gov. Tom Wolf’s spokesman Jeff Sheridan, the state Department of Education is looking to loan $2.5 billion in new bond debt to fund PlanCon, which would provide state-funded school districts with funds they were guaranteed, but haven’t yet received.

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.