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District Misses Deadline for State Aid on School Projects

November 25, 2000

SANTA ANA — A year after voters approved a $145-million bond measure, the Santa Ana Unified School District is under fire for moving so slowly to design construction projects that it has lost the chance to get millions of dollars in matching state funds--and could lose millions more.

The missed opportunities are pitting angry board members against each other and getting parents riled.

"There were some bureaucratic and administrative bungles along the way," board member Audrey Yamagata-Noji said. "And we knew we were racing against the clock to begin with."

Critics blame the holdup on a change in bureaucratic procedure.

The board majority, led by John Palacio, wanted to be thorough in creating a new process to select architects and define projects. But Yamagata-Noji and others say that replacing a long-tested routine procedure was simply unnecessary.

The $145 million from the bond is earmarked for construction of 11 elementary schools and two high schools, and upgrades to 22 schools--projects costing much more than the amount voters approved.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday December 14, 2000 Home Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Metro Desk 2 inches; 68 words Type of Material: Correction
Matching funds--A headline on a Nov. 25 article about a dispute among Santa Ana Unified School District trustees said the district had missed a deadline to apply for state matching funds for construction and modernization. District Supt. Al Mijares says his staff knew it could never meet state application requirements in time and decided instead to pursue future matching funds, should they become available, to supplement $145 million in local bond money already approved by voters.

For help, the district was counting on getting matching state funds under Proposition 1A, a 1998 voter-approved initiative that offered money both for renovations and for new construction.

But to get those funds, the district had to complete design work and ship plans to Sacramento with its applications. But the district didn't move quickly enough to get any of that state money.

The state, meantime, has run out of money for modernization projects, though it still has $1.3 billion left to help with new construction.

"The modernization money is gone--it went so fast," said Bruce Hancock, an assistant executive for the State Allocation Board, which distributes the funding. "We gave all the money we had and still had projects unfunded, and the list has continued to build since then."

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