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California Schools Ask for $11.6B of Bonds
-- Tonya Chin , Bond Buyer

California: October 30, 2014 -- SAN FRANCISCO On Nov. 4 California's school districts and community colleges will ask voters to approve a record high of 113 local bond measures, totaling $11.6 billion, to fund school construction, acquire equipment, and make repairs and upgrades. That amount is higher than it was during each of the previous four gubernatorial and presidential elections, when school districts proposed 105 measures in 2012, 63 in 2010, 92 in 2008, and 67 in 2006. "That's a lot of revenue to be asking for," said Michael Coleman, principal fiscal policy advisor to the League of California Cities, and creator of CaliforniaCityFinance.com. "It could be that local governments are feeling the need to step up because the state isn't stepping it up enough with their own bond measures." Legislation to authorize $9 billion in state general obligation bonds for school facilities failed in the legislature earlier this year-even after it was pared down to $4.5 billion because it lacked the support of Gov. Jerry Brown. The Brown administration said it had concerns about the state's existing school facilities program and the appropriate role for the state in financing school infrastructure. Under the state's current school facilities program, new school construction projects are funded on a 50/50 state and local matching basis, which provides an incentive for schools to pass local bond measures. "School districts are realizing that there's money on the table that they need to take advantage of," Coleman said.

EPISD report suggests schools may close, be consolidated, upgraded
-- Lindsey Anderson , El Paso Times

Texas: October 29, 2014 -- Dozens of El Paso Independent School District schools are on the list for possible closure and consolidation while district officials consider what to do with aging buildings and declining enrollment. A draft report by Jacobs Engineering Group offers a variety of suggestions, including closing schools, consolidating campuses into kindergarten through eighth-grade schools and redrawing school boundaries. "These are all options on the table," EPISD spokeswoman Melissa Martinez said. "Nothing is a plan." Officials will present the options to the public at 6 p.m. Monday at Bowie High School, 801 San Marcial. Community input will be taken into account before Jacobs presents recommendations to the EPISD Board of Managers, likely at the board's Dec. 16 meeting. The board of managers could decide to implement a number of options, a few or none of them, Martinez said. District officials said any decisions could take years to execute because they are part of EPISD's yearslong master plan and require funding. "This is not going to happen overnight," Martinez said. The EPISD is projected to lose more than 5,000 students by the 2019-2020 school year. Currently, 61,151 students are enrolled. By 2019-20, about a dozen schools are expected to have only half as many students as they could house, while another dozen are expected to exceed capacity, according to Jacobs. More than a dozen schools, primarily elementaries, are mentioned as possible sites that could be closed to save money on maintenance costs and address falling enrollment. The elementary schools mentioned are Roberts, Putnam, Vilas, Lamar, Beall, Alta Vista, Zavala, Bonham, Cielo Vista, Burnet, Travis, Schuster, Dowell and Fanin. Also mentioned were Charles Middle, and Andress or Irvin high schools.

Starr seeks $221 million more for school projects
-- Lindsay A. Powers , Gazette.net

Maryland: October 29, 2014 -- In the midst of continuing enrollment growth, Superintendent Joshua P. Starr said Tuesday he wants Montgomery County Public Schools to ask for $220.8 million more for its capital budget. Among the recommended budget amendments, the one carrying most of the money would push forward by one year a series of construction projects. Those projects were delayed by a year in the school systems fiscal 2015-2020 Capital Improvements Program after school construction legislation the system had hoped for fell through in the past legislative session. The Montgomery County Council passed a $1.53 billion capital improvements plan for the school system earlier this year. Starrs request would increase the plan to $1.75 billion. Starr is recommending that the following projects be completed on the dates the county school board requested last year: two new elementary schools; revitalization/expansion projects for 13 elementary schools, three middle schools and three high schools; addition projects at 12 elementary schools and two secondary schools; and improvements for the Blair G. Ewing Center. School officials expect the money will come from the state, said Larry Bowers, chief operating officer for the school system. The project delays that Starr aims to undo were the result of unsuccessful efforts in the General Assembly to pass legislation that would have generated more school construction money, Bowers said. Starr said he hopes such legislation will make it through the upcoming session. I expect that we will continue to push for the issue and Im hoping that we figure out a way with our delegation to be successful this year, and Im hoping that whoever the new governor is, that they will support, he said.

Judge rules school facility plans overdue
-- Julia Terruso, philly.com

New Jersey: October 29, 2014 -- TRENTON The state must update its facility plans for low-income school districts, including eight in South Jersey, a judge ordered this month, calling the Department of Education's failure thus far noncompliant with its own policies. The Department of Education's Office of School Facilities is obligated to keep an up-to-date list of long-range facility plans for New Jersey's 31 so-called Abbott, or low-income, districts to enable prioritizing of renovations that would be carried out by the Schools Development Authority. The Education Law Center, a nonprofit that focuses on Abbott districts, sued the state, saying plans had not been updated in some cases since 2008. Of the 31 districts required to submit plans to the state, only eight had done so in the last five years. The state Department of Education did not return a request for comment Tuesday. An up-to-date plan is a prerequisite for any facility improvement project, according to state statute. Administrative Law Judge Ellen Bass said in a written order out of Newark that until the plans are updated, districts are unable to benefit from any SDA improvement projects. She ordered the department to direct the districts with outstanding plans to file within 60 days. The department then has 90 days to approve and review the plans and create a ranking of projects to send to the SDA.

Construction firm threatens to take Palo Alto school district to trial
-- Elena Kadvany, Palo Alto Weekly

California: October 28, 2014 -- While Palo Alto High School students were finally able to make full use of a new classroom building and just-completed Media Arts Center at the start of this school year, the school district continues to be embroiled in a $3.5 million lawsuit filed by the construction company that built both facilities. Taisei Construction Company, contracted by the district in 2011 for the Media Arts Center and a two-story math and social studies building, is accusing the district of employing a range of "bad-faith tactics" that delayed the buildings' openings by nearly a year. Taisei has sued Palo Alto Unified for $3.5 million to compensate for additional costs and expenses incurred as the district "substantially changed and increased the scope of the work to be performed" throughout construction, according to the lawsuit. Palo Alto Unified's conflict with the Santa Clara-based construction company reaches back to April 2013, when Taisei filed a claim against the district demanding to be paid $1.6 million based on change orders it had submitted in connection with added or altered work the district directed Taisei and its contractors to perform. The district rejected this claim, and Taisei filed a lawsuit in June 2013 -- the original completion date for the work. Taisei amended the suit three times as it continued with construction of the two buildings, which were completed in May. The district did not become aware of the lawsuit until July, officials said, alleging that Taisei did not notify or serve the district.

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