School construction could face delays in Federal Way

A proposed cut in funding for school construction projects in the Senate's capital budget could mean delays for Federal Way schools undergoing remodeling.

The cuts would not affect the construction for five Federal Way schools being completely rebuilt. However, the cuts could potentially impact smaller projects, including the updating of heating and lighting systems.

The Senate's proposed capital budget, which covers construction and large-budget projects for the state, cuts out "match grant funding" for school construction. Match grants offer districts funding for school construction projects, but don't actually match dollar-for-dollar what a school district spends on a construction project.

In Federal Way

Federal Way is currently in the middle of renovating 23 schools in the district, including five schools that will be completely rebuilt.

Each match grant is on a project-by-project basis and requires about a year-long process to be approved.

The state match grants for Valhalla and Panther Lake elementary schools, for example, have already been approved. With the addition of Lakota Middle School and Sunnycrest and Lakeland elementary schools, as well as improvements to 23 of Federal Way's 37 schools, the state match grants add up to about $20 million.

However, that money from the state is not going toward the buildings themselves, so the main construction will not be delayed, said Chief Financial Officer Sally McLean.

"We don't ever count on state match (funding) for buildings," McLean said. "It is for a number of small projects including updating lighting and heating. We will still get it, we're still approved. It's just a matter of when. It's more of a delay issue."

"We don't know if (the cut) will be in the final budget," McLean said. "It's a big unknown. If it does, it would mean a time delay of state match funds."

Bond facts

The $149 million bond will rebuild five aging schools: Lakota Middle School and Lakeland, Panther Lake, Sunnycrest and Valhalla elementary schools.

The district’s transportation center, central kitchen and maintenance facilities will be rebuilt and relocated to an area near Celebration Park.

The bond will trigger $20 million in matching funds from the state to provide improvements to 23 Federal Way schools built before 1990, with the exception of Federal Way High School. Renovations will include repairing items such as heating, roofs and plumbing.

The district plans to complete the projects by 2013.

Budget timeline

April 2009: Legislature sends final budget proposal to the governor. However, the governor has line-item veto power anytime during the process, even after the House and Senate adjourn.

April 26: Legislature adjourns.

April 28: Superintendent's recommended budget for 2009-2010 school year presented.

June 23: Federal Way School Board adopts budget.

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