Schools will seek
$453M of surplus

The DOE chief says it's time
the system got its "fair share"


Thursday, Sept. 29, 2005

» The state Department of Education is seeking $100 million to help address a school-repair backlog. A Page A1 article in yesterday's morning edition incorrectly listed the figure as $100,000.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at corrections@starbulletin.com.

With a large state budget surplus projected for next year, Department of Education officials plan to ask the Legislature for an additional $453 million in funds for the 2006-07 fiscal year.

The amount dwarfs previous supplemental budget requests, but state Schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto said it was time the state public school system got its "fair share."

"I know it sounds like a whole lot more than in the past, but I'm tired of paying late bills," Hamamoto said in presenting the requests to the Board of Education yesterday.

The department cited a number of programs it said were underfunded in the biennial budget that came into force on July 1, higher electricity and other costs expected related to oil prices, and a large backlog of school repair and maintenance needs.

The department has so far been budgeted for just over $2 billion a year for 2005-07.

Some of the new requests run counter to a directive sent down by the Lingle administration for state agencies to continue to live within their means next year despite the surplus. With the exception of certain unforeseen cost increases, the administration said there will be no "add-ons" to current 2005-07 appropriations.

State Budget and Finance Director Georgina Kawamura said the surplus, swollen by the state's growing economy, is projected at $632.6 million for 2006-07. However, she said the governor wants to use some of that for "tax relief" measures still being worked out.

Kawamura declined specific comment on the requests, saying she hadn't seen them, but said large supplemental requests had been expected. "Obviously the level of expectation has been raised because (state agencies) see the fund balance that's available," she said.

Education officials intend to ask for $359 million for capital improvements and maintenance of aging schools.

Of that figure, $100,000 would go toward tackling a school repair backlog estimated at $500 million. Another $160 million would pay for an ongoing classroom renovation campaign, and $68 million is needed to build a new middle school in Ewa, department officials said.

The department was budgeted $65 million for capital improvements for 2006-07.

Education officials are also asking for $84 million in additional operating funds, some of which would seem technically allowable under the Lingle directive. Of that, $24 million would pay for the one-time cost of switching to a uniform statewide school calendar in the 2006-07 school year that was approved by the board earlier this month.

The department also wants $16 million for expected higher electricity bills stemming from high oil prices, expected local rate increases, and the addition of two new air-conditioned schools. Another $9 million would go toward higher costs of student transportation services, also stemming in part from fuel costs.

In 2003, the department asked for $51 million in supplemental operating funds, but received only $16.5 million.

An outside auditor hired by the department said earlier this year that the school system was budgeted $278 million less than necessary to provide each child a proper education.

"We're going in for what we believe is our fair share," Hamamoto said.

The board endorsed the requests and even tacked on $5 million for technology upgrades and another $5 million to subsidize electricity bills for schools that can obtain air-conditioning systems on their own.

Schools wish list

Here are some key items in a $453 million package of supplemental budget requests that state Schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto, above, and the Department of Education plan to submit to the next Legislature.

» Classroom renovations, $160 million

» Facility improvements, $100 million

» New middle school in Ewa, $68 million

» Implementing uniform school calendar, $24.4 million

» Higher electricity costs, $16 million

» Address autism funding shortfall, $10 million

» Student transportation services, $9.4 million

» Principal performance incentives, $5 million

» More special-education teachers, $3.7 million

Department of Education

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