District gets a $3.9M boost

GLENDALE — Amid concerns a Glendale Unified School District purchase of three apartment buildings for $2.3 million was too pricey at a time of major funding cuts, officials said this week the money came from a rare state reimbursement for the troubled construction project at Crescenta Valley High School.

Three weeks ago, the California State Board of Allocations voted to finalize a $3.9-million reimbursement to the school district for money it spent on renovations and new construction at Crescenta Valley High. The work was completed in 2002, but leaks and faulty construction were discovered after heavy rains. Repairs for those problems are still ongoing.

The state board authorized funding for the original construction in 2000, which initiated a bidding process that included 80 applicants. But in between contractor-to-district and district-to-Sacramento paperwork, an error arose and jeopardized the district’s reimbursement with state officials, Glendale Unified Supt. Michael Escalante said.

“It created incredible confusion,” he said. “We could never get it corrected.”

It is notoriously difficult to get the state allocation board to reimburse money for projects when deadlines have been missed, or when applications contain errors. It took the intervention of then-state Sen. Jack Scott and two votes before the board until Glendale officials were paid back, district officials said.

The state board’s $3.9-million reimbursement, which could be used only for capital projects, not teacher salaries or other expenses, provided the funding needed to secure the properties adjacent to the district’s headquarters on Jackson Street.

The district had been eyeing the property at 233, 237 and 241 N. Jackson St. for years, but its owner had been reluctant to sell, Escalante said.

But when the owner died, his family was ready to deal.

“It was fortuitous that when the property became available, the state allocations board recognized our claim,” said Mary Boger, president of the Glendale Unified School District Board of Education.

The property remains in escrow, and it will likely be some time before it’s developed, officials said.

A parking structure, a child care facility for preschoolers and additional space for Daily High School programs were among the ideas district officials have considered.

District officials have said the purchase was important considering most school campuses are landlocked in a city that is nearly built out.

“It will be there for us in the future when we will very likely need it,” Boger said.

And within the three buildings, one apartment could house a tenant, which would make the district a landlord.

“We would not be the first district to do that,” Boger said.

The unusual funding process for the purchase seemed out of place to some at a time when district officials have been warning of a $20-million shortfall by 2012 if substantial cuts aren’t made.

Despite earlier state rule changes that allowed school districts to sweep some designated money into their general funds, the $3.9 million did not fall under that category, Boger said.

Still, Glendale Teachers Assn. President Tami Carlson said she hoped money from the general fund, which covers teachers’ salaries and benefits, would not have to be spent on upcoming construction.


 MAX ZIMBERT covers education. He may be reached at (818) 637-3215 or by e-mail at max.zimbert@latimes.com.

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