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Hart tightens project budget

Modernization for schools to go on, with less money

Posted: January 21, 2009 9:58 p.m.
Updated: January 22, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Hart district officials plan to scale back the proposed budgets for the modernization of three local schools in light of the state-budget stalemate, but officials remain confident the much-needed projects will still create classrooms, bathrooms and rehearsal space for students.

"We are going to do exactly what we committed to do in June 2007," said Rob Gapper, chief operations officer for the William S. Hart Union High School District.

"We're just going to do them with less money. We're not going to sacrifice quality."

District board members unanimously approved the budget changes Wednesday. The vote allows officials to go out to bid on Hart and Sierra Vista's projects in February, Gapper said.

The district initially estimated Hart High School's modernization would cost $39 million.

The revised budget stands at $28 million.

The proposed budgets for Sierra Vista Junior High School and Placerita Junior High School remain the same at $13 million and $9 million, respectively.

Officials plan to use Measure V funding, and Measure SA money for construction on later modernization phases, Gapper said.

Santa Clarita voters approved the $158 million Measure V in 2001 and the $300 million Measure SA in 2008. Modernization plans for the three schools began in June 2007.

"We have a much clearer picture of what we're going to do based on those working drawings," Gapper said.
The sluggish economy and drastic decline in local construction changed funding opportunities.

"When we put together the original funding plan, we had a lot of pots of money that we don't have today," he said.

Two years ago, district officials anticipated funding through the state and local developer fees.

The boom in construction in the Santa Clarita Valley allowed the district to accumulate an average of $6 million a year in developer fees. The fees topped $13 million one year, Gapper said.

The district collected about $100,000 in developer fees this fiscal year, which started in July.

The state budget impasse squelched funding.

"There was a considerable amount of state funds that we believed we could count on," he said, later adding, "We've discovered now that the state cannot be counted on for state funds. But the slow economy works in the district's favor.

"The bid climate has changed radically since June 2007," he said.

With the number of construction projects dwindling, "jobs are bidding much less," he said.

Once completed, Hart High School's modernization will create a science building, a new band room, updated classrooms and student restrooms. "Their science classrooms had not had any work since the mid-70s," Gapper said.

Lab space remains an issue at the high school.

"They are outdated and undersized," Hart principal Collyn Nielsen said.

Placerita went through a modernization in 2002, which involved the addition of a new gymnasium, library and multipurpose room.

Upcoming construction involves additions and renovations to classrooms, Gapper said. Sierra Vista's modernization includes more classrooms and restrooms, an administration building, library, gymnasium and multipurpose room.

Placerita's modernization is nearly 75 percent complete and Gapper estimates the project will be done before the start of the fall school year.

Sierra Vista's modernization will be completed by August 2010 and Hart's project will be ready for student use in 2011, he said.


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