June 17, 2014
On Sunday June 15, 2014, the Legislature approved the FY 2014-15 State Budget Act as well as a number of accompanying trailer bills in order to meet the June 15 constitutional deadline (see C.A.S.H. article on June 16, 2014 entitled “Legislature Passes Budget – Education and Facilities Impacts”). These bills will now be sent to the Governor for his consideration. The Legislature’s approved budget package includes $188.1 million in one-time funds for Emergency Repair Program (ERP) projects. Furthermore, in both his January Budget and the May Revision, the Governor stated his intention to fund the remaining $272 million worth of ERP projects in the 2015-16 State Budget.
This represents a major victory for C.A.S.H. at a time of uncertainty for the school facilities community. Since the Williams Settlement in 2006, C.A.S.H. has been a consistent and unwavering advocate for ERP as a way to ensure that students at schools with inadequate facilities and maintenance practices are able to address their most immediate health and safety concerns on their school sites to ensure that they are clean, safe, and healthy. While certainly not replacing the need for state support for school facilities or adequate support for school maintenance, the state’s commitment of $800 million for school facility health and safety projects represented a significant dedication of state funding for school facilities, as well as a recognition of the link between student achievement and school facilities.
As initially enacted, the ERP was a reimbursement program which proved to be prohibitive for school districts, and as a result only a few initially applied, as many eligible school districts were hesitant to identify their health and safety needs in the absence of a certain source of funding to address them. To address this concern, C.A.S.H., through the C.A.S.H. Maintenance Network and with the support of the C.A.S.H. Urban Committee, convened a meeting of key stakeholders that included representatives from school districts, county offices of education, educational advocacy associations, the Department of Finance (DOF) the Department of Education (CDE), the Office of Public School Construction (OPSC), the Division of the State Architect (DSA) and others, to develop a solution. This effort lead to the proposal to add an option for school districts to receive a grant to fund ERP projects prospectively, in addition to retaining the ability to fund ERP reimbursements for projects that have already been completed. This proposal was enacted into law under AB 607 (Goldberg). Under this arrangement, the state funded $338.4 million of the $800 million worth of ERP projects, with $459.5 million worth of projects left to be funded.
In light of the significant economic contraction in 2008, difficult times fell on school maintenance departments with budget flexibility, the non-funding of the Deferred Maintenance Program (DMP), and no state funding provided for ERP projects for five-years eliminating funding to maintain the state’s significant investment in school facilities. During these challenging times for school maintenance departments, which continue today, C.A.S.H. was often a lone voice in support of funding ERP projects, as well as countering the negative effects of Budget Flexibility and the elimination of state funding to support maintenance. For this reason, the approval of the $188 million for ERP projects represents a major victory for school districts that have committed local funding for ERP projects but have not received the funding, as well as a victory for C.A.S.H.’s core commitment to support adequate funding for maintenance and “Good Repair,” even when it is not popular.
Many challenges remain for school maintenance departments going forward, such as ensuring that the remaining commitment to fully-fund the $272 million worth of ERP projects is realized, that the 3% contribution to the Routine Restricted Maintenance Account (RRMA) returns in 2015-16 as scheduled, and that the “Good Repair” standard included in the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) is genuinely treated as one of the state’s “Eight State Priorities.” C.A.S.H. has created the C.A.S.H. Maintenance Management Certificate Program (CMMCP) to develop new M&O leaders to address new challenges.
Today, however, we pause briefly to celebrate this hard-fought victory, and thank the Governor, the Legislature and school districts for supporting safe, secure and adequate school facilities.