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School Board Votes to Tap Fund for Projects

Money will come from Measure K, passed by voters in November to fund new construction.

September 24, 2003|Erika Hayasaki | Times Staff Writer

Faced with 550 incomplete school construction projects and no money to finish them, the Los Angeles school board voted Tuesday to borrow from a fund that was supposed to be for future projects.

About $250 million worth of work is underway on cafeterias, classrooms and playgrounds, and is funded by Proposition BB, passed by voters in 1997, which provided $2.4 billion for school improvements.

But that money has been spent, and about $600 million more is needed to finished the projects already begun.

The board voted 5 to 1 to borrow money from Measure K, a $3.35-billion school construction bond measure that passed in November. That money was earmarked for future projects.

"This allows us to continue our most urgent construction projects," Supt. Roy Romer said. "And it enables us to go toward March, when we try to pass another bond to finish the programs."

Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte was the only board member to vote against the motion. Board member David Tokofsky abstained.

The decision came after school employee union leaders strongly opposed a previous plan that ultimately would have taken the money out of the general fund.

The idea was widely criticized because that money was slated for teacher salaries and student supplies.

However, if the construction bond proposal is not approved in March, the board would have to reconsider issuing certificates of participation or finding another way to pay back the borrowed money, Romer said.

In other action, the board voted to accept contracts for diesel school buses only on models that have soot traps or that use cleaner fuel.

Diesel emissions have been linked to cancer, asthma and urban haze.

The motion, which was unanimously approved, was sponsored by board members Marlene Canter and Julie Korenstein.

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