School grant comes through

RANCHO SANTA FE — The Rancho Santa Fe School District has received a $6.44 million grant it has been expecting from the state for modernization, new construction and relief from overcrowding.
“This is cause for celebration,” Superintendent Lindy Delaney said.
The money is earmarked for restoring projects de-scoped from the final construction budget of the Rowe renovation project, to repay loans covering the completion of the project and to put in reserve for future purchases to expand the school’s site.
Delaney said the district had borrowed from its general fund, developer fees and special reserve to complete the Rowe renovation project.
“Repayment of money owned from developer fees and the general fund will fully restore these funds,” Delaney said. “Even with this borrowing, we were also forced to scale-back the project,” she said.
She said $1.8 million of items that were de-scoped from the $39.5 million project last year such as classroom furniture, equipment, access control security equipment and a science discovery pond can now be completed.
Also because of the grant, the soccer field and track can be completed this summer. It had been removed from the renovation project in its final budget in 2009.
“Interior furnishings and equipment for the Performing Arts Center were delayed because private fundraising fell short,” Delaney said.
Now the facility can be school-ready.
A curtain has already been ordered, equipment and seats considered.
“This grant does not eliminate the continuing need for outside contributions to supplement district programs and to complete the Performing Arts Center for community use,” Delaney said.
Because the district is able to pay back funds borrowed, it will be in a position to take advantage of adjacent property if and when it becomes available to expand the Rowe site, as the voters directed.
The state mandate will not allow money from the grant to be used for staff or supplies like paper and pencils. It can be used only for capital improvements.
Delaney said the district qualified for the overcrowding benefits because Rowe is both an elementary and middle school where not all students had seats. And because some of its buildings were between 30 and 50 years old, they qualified for modernization funds.
Even with all the good news related to the grant, Delaney said she is expecting a budget shortfall this year.
“Last year we had an operating budget of $9.6 million. Next year it could be $9 million,” she said.
She said she is looking toward cuts, using reserves and help from the district’s foundation.
“We don’t know how rainy the days are going to get,” she said.
About $1.9 million of the requests by school officials remain unfunded because of the state’s budget shortfall.


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