DOE is not 'sitting' on school R&M funds
THIS IS to clarify and correct the false impression
that the Department of Education might already have sufficient funding to address the repair and maintenance backlog in our public schools.
Confusion originated with the Department of Budget & Finance's statement that nearly $600 million is already appropriated for public school repair and maintenance. This claim was repeated in the Legislature's opening day remarks by Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings ("There are approximately $570 million on the state books right now for repair and maintenance of schools.") and House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan ("There is over half a billion dollars currently appropriated to attack the repair and maintenance of our educational buildings and grounds.").
The DOE disagrees with the suggestion that existing funds are available for new projects, since all of the current appropriations, allotments, expenditures and encumbrances are already designated for specific jobs. Our supplemental budget request is for new projects that are currently unfunded.
In the past three years the Legislature has appropriated $557 million for school facilities capital improvement projects, which include repair and maintenance funds, but also cover construction of new schools and classroom buildings. Many are confusing the total CIP appropriation with funding for R&M alone. In reality, these CIP funds are for major construction and numerous compliance projects -- as well as repair and maintenance.
As of Dec. 31, only $344 million of that $557 million total CIP budget appropriation has been released by the executive branch. From that amount, $195 million has been spent ($114 million) or encumbered ($81 million). Of the allotted balance, $74 million will be encumbered by the end of this fiscal year, and the remaining $75 million (most of which was released in December 2005) will be encumbered for already designated projects by June 30, 2008.
School CIP projects involve a multiyear process that advances from planning and design stages through final construction. R&M projects are selected from a lengthy prioritized list that represents a considerable backlog. Whatever funds the 2006 Legislature provides for R&M will already have projects waiting.
The Board of Education's fiscal year 2007 supplemental CIP budget request is for $368.1 million, which includes $160 million for whole school classroom renovations at 96 schools and $100 million for other major R&M projects. Without this funding, the backlog will likely grow, and the public demand for improving the learning environment at our public schools will remain unfulfilled.
Patricia Hamamoto is superintendent of Hawaii public schools.