The vote to move forward with the projects comes just one month after the trustees approved the postponement of selected capital projects scheduled for contract during 2011. On May 18, the board voted to hold off on awarding contracts until the state settled on a final budget.
“Because we didn’t know the outcome of the legislative budget, at the May meeting we asked the board if they wanted to postpone,” WCSD spokesperson Mikalee Byerman said. “We didn’t want to move forward if the budget affected our bonding capacity.”
The state’s final budget did not affect the bond money used for capital improvement projects. In addition, via Assembly Bill 183, the Legislature approved lowering bond debt reserve requirements, which has freed up some $75 million for capital projects.
Mark Stanton, chief capital projects and facilities management officer, on Tuesday told board members that AB 183, which revises provisions regarding the establishment and maintenance of a reserve account for payment of the outstanding bonds of a school district, passed the House and Assembly and is awaiting Gov. Brian Sandoval’s signature.
“AB 183 allows us to reduce the debt reserve from 100 percent to 25 percent,” Stanton said. “It is waiting on the governor’s signature,” but he is expected to sign it.
Stanton said the WCSD can comfortably reduce its debt reserve to 30 percent, which frees up $75 million in bonding capacity. Stanton’s staff currently is formulating a school works capital projects improvement plan that will be presented to the board at a later date. Stanton said he hopes to move forward with those projects as soon as possible.
“We’re really excited about this,” Stanton said. “It really gives us a shot in the arm for our capital improvement program.”
Byerman said the district has $9.2 million in capital projects slated for completion by 2012, including a number of projects at Sparks schools. At Sparks High School, an elevator will be installed to make the school compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, and Sparks Middle School will receive school-wide computer and electronic systems upgrades. Nearly half of the schools in the district will receive classroom and restroom upgrades, drainage system improvements, fire alarm and electrical system upgrades, window replacements, parking lot upgrades and other capital improvements.
Stanton said funding for this work comes from a capital projects account, which is money exclusively raised from voter-approved bond measures such as the 2002 Rollover Bond. It cannot be used to pay teacher salaries or offset general fund shortfalls.
“The taxpayers voted in 2002 to fund projects that will support teaching, learning and student safety,” Stanton said. “Our goal is to make the most effective use of this voter investment, staying ahead of building needs and creating the best, most secure learning environments possible.”
An estimated $31.5 million allocated through the 2002 Rollover Bond will fund just over 100 summer and fall projects. According to a press release, this summer work is estimated to provide employment opportunities for about 340 local workers.
The projects will go out for bid immediately and construction will begin as soon as those bids are awarded, Byerman said.