by Leon Worden, SCVNews.com
A voter-approved state bond measure is paying half the cost of a new elementary school in the Santa Clarita Valley and modernizing an older middle school.
California might be going broke, but the State Allocation Board announced the distribution of nearly $1 billion Wednesday for school construction and modernization projects. Included on the list is $4.26 million for the construction of a new school on the Emblem Elementary campus in the Saugus Union School District and $5.2 million for the modernization of Sierra Vista Junior High in the Hart School District.
Funding for 377 approved projects across California comes from four different state bond measures. Both SCV projects are funded through Proposition 1D, a general obligation bond measure approved by California voters in 2006, said Rebecca Kirk of the state Office of Public School Construction.
Not all school districts were as lucky Wednesday as those in Santa Clarita. Requests for money totaled $1.318 billion, but bond proceeds and cash on hand covered just $924 million.
“Our schools and California’s budget are in a state of financial emergency,” Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, said in a statement. “These funds will give districts some of the resources they need to construct or rebuild our schools, create jobs in the community to help the state’s economic recovery, and provide students with more modern facilities that advance their academic achievement.”
The awards to the Hart and Saugus district represent matching funds. Hart is matched 60-40, with 60 percent of the $8.7 million project cost coming from the state and 40 percent from the local, SCV voter-approved Measure SA.
Saugus is matched 50-50, with the other 50 percent coming from a community facilities district funded by homeowners in the Newhall Land and Farming Co.’s River Village community.
The state attached strings to its matching funds.
“The districts must meet fund release requirements within 90 days,” Kirk said, meaning they must “have the local matching share available and have at least half of the project’s construction contracts in place.”
That shouldn’tt be a problem for either the Hart or Saugus school districts.
“(Emblem) has been under construction for about 13 months,” Saugus Superintendent Joan Lucid said.
The project entails the construction of a brand-new, 2-story school on the older Emblem campus, where the original school building has already been completely overhauled. The campus has been closed during the past few years of construction.
The new, second school at the Emblem site was expected to be finished sooner.
“We anticipated that the River Village area would be built out very quickly,” Lucid said, but “there is still a lot of open space. The developer has slowed down.”
She said the district thinks the school will be ready in late September or early October, but she couldn’t yet say whether it would open for the 2012-13 school year.
At Sierra Vista Junior High, the state funding reimburses part of the money the Hart District has already spent on the first phase of modernization, according to Sue Hoerber, the district’s chief financial officer.
The first phase is complete and a second phase of modernization will soon start, thanks to the passage of the local Measure SA bond, district spokeswoman Gail Pinsker said.
Sierra Vista will see a renovation of the entire campus, including all classroom spaces and restroom areas.
The Hart and Saugus districts were the only SCV school districts to request project funding, according to a report from the State Allocation Board – whose members include Torlakson as well as the state finance director, the general services director, an appointee of the governor, three assembly members and three state senators – including local Sen. Sharon Runner, who is still recuperating at home after a serious sporting accident.