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Lindsay leverages facilities funds

Lindsay leverages facilities funds

Lindsay Unified School District has a knack for thinking outside of the box.

Nationally recognized for its Performance Based System, LUSD is quickly becoming known for its ability to secure funding for its aging school sites after decades of watching them fall into disrepair. In the past 10 years, Lindsay has built a new high school and elementary school, converted to a K-8 elementary system, installed field turf at its football stadium and provided small laptops for nearly every student. Just six months after being awarded $10 million as part of the federal government’s Race To The Top program, LUSD continues to try and leverage its funding into more funding.

Superintendent Tom Rooney gave an update on the district’s latest endeavor to qualify for Hardship funding with the State during a presentation at the June 17 LUSD Board of Trustees meeting.

“We are continuing to look for opportunities to optimize our funding at the state level,” Rooney said in a later interview. “We are pursuing every funding opportunity at the state level.”

Business Officer Jihad Hemaiden said school sites become eligible for modernization funds based on the age of the buildings. Permanent classrooms are eligible for funds after 25 years and portable classrooms after 20 years. However, the modernization funds are a 60/40 match with school districts paying 40% of the project.

If the district is approved for Hardship Funding, the State would not only pay its 60% in modernization funds but also cover the other 40% of the district’s match. LUSD used hardship funding to build the $45.8 million Lindsay High School in 2011. In order to qualify for Hardship Funding, Hemaiden explained a district must exceed its debt limit, which Lindsay did with its $16 million Measure L in Novmeber, and not have any local funds available for modernization projects, which the district used up building the new Lindsay High School and Roosevelt Elementary School in 2011 while also converting from three elementary schools and a middle school to six K-8 schools in 2012.

“These modernization projects fall in-line with our Measure L projects,” Rooney said. “There are always unforeseen fluctuations in expenses for construction projects and there is no guarantee a bond measure will cover the cost of every project on the bond list. By pursuing other funds, we are ensuring we will get closer to meeting our goal.”

Overall LUSD is eligible for $5.57 million in modernization funding. But if its application for Hardship is approved, the district would receive an additional $3.7 million from the State for a total of $9.2 million.

Hemaidan said the district’s top modernization project is Jefferson Elementary School. Jefferson is currently eligible for $1.2 million in modernization funds. By 2018, Jefferson would be eligible for another $720,000. Jefferson’s renovation will include three phases. Phase 1 would include the repair of a dozen permanent classrooms. Phase 2 would replace 12 portables with modern buildings and Phase 3 would modernize the cafeteria.

The next highest priority would be Washington Elementary, which is eligible for $1.4 million and another $450,000 in 2019. The district plans to use the money to upgrade classrooms, HVAC, restrooms, storm drains and the drop-off/pick-up area.

Lincoln Elementary is currently eligible for nearly $2 million with another million in 2016 and a quarter of a million in 2017. Lincoln needs a complete overhaul of classrooms and infrastructure. The district also plans to remodel administration and multipurpose rooms with any remaining funds.

Kennedy Elementary, the former Lindsay High School, is eligible for $185,000 and Reagan, the former Steve Garvey Junior High, is eligible for $835,000. Reagan would be next on the priority list but would only be funded if there was enough funding available from the State. Kennedy was not listed among the projects.

“These projects are on the fast track,” Hemaiden said. “We have already started architectural plans and we plan to submit our application to the State Architect in mid-October. There is a two- to three-month review process and we should know if we were approved or denied in January.”

The architectural plans alone are estimated to cost the district $2 million. In a presentation to the LUSD Board of Trustees on June 17, Superintendent Tom Rooney said the district is still deciding if it will do all of the plans up front or start construction first and finish remaining plans afterwards.

In addition to modernization and hardship funding, LUSD could receive an additional $3 million from the sale of bonds after requesting a waiver from the state to increase its debt limit from 2.5% to 3.5%.

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