Thursday, November 18, 2004

$100M released
for schools

The governor gives the
go-ahead on badly needed
repairs and maintenance

The state Department of Education will receive $100 million to fix and maintain the schools.

State lawmakers allotted $100 million for school repair and maintenance in 2003 but scheduled the release for July 1. Gov. Linda Lingle released the money last week.

Lingle said the Department of Accounting and General Services will solicit contractors and monitor their performance for projects worth $50 million. The Department of Education will be responsible for projects covering the rest of the money.

She noted that school repair and maintenance responsibilities were transferred from DAGS to the Education Department when legislators approved the Reinventing Education Act of 2004 by overriding Lingle's veto.

However, the lawmakers did not authorize the Education Department the necessary personnel to handle the projects until next year. DAGS will oversee the $50 million in projects until the Education Department can assume full responsibility on July 1.

"So I'm trying to do it myself with no people," said Assistant Schools Superintendent Rae Loui.

Loui said prior to Lingle releasing the money, DAGS had promised, in a memorandum of understanding, to handle the projects for the entire $100 million. And she expected the money to be expended quickly, within the first year.

"These are badly needed repairs, things like leaky roofs and electric power lines tripping," she said.

But state Comptroller Russ Saito said the Education Department can still get the projects done without the authorized personnel.

"DAGS is like the construction consulting and management firm for DOE. They can find another consulting and management firm," he said.

Saito said the Education Department always had the authority to hire outside consultants and managers for construction projects and pay them with the repair and maintenance funds. However, he admits it will cost more than if DAGS handles the projects.

Lingle said she has written the principals of all of Hawaii's 262 public and conversion charter schools, urging them to contact state Schools Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto to inform her of their schools' repair priorities.

"I have seen firsthand on numerous occasions the deteriorating and dilapidated conditions under which many of our students are educators must work," she said. "By releasing and using funds now, we can establish a physical environment conducive to learning that is safe, clean and comfortable."

State Department of Education


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