Officials: College Place schools’ state funds not in the bag

There’s no guarantee the district will get $4 million more than it expected, they say.

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COLLEGE PLACE — News that College Place Public Schools has been awarded $4 million more than expected in state matching funds for school construction is not quite what it seems, school officials said Wednesday.

Although the district is eligible for up to $14.8 million in capital construction funds, what money it will receive from the state won’t show up until the district jumps through quite a few hoops first, said Doug Case, school board president.

“I want to make people understand, the state just doesn’t hand you a check,” he said Wednesday.

The construction assistance awards were announced last week by the state Office for the Superintendent of Public Instruction. More than $185 million is due to be released to 16 school districts.

According to the OSPI, College Place is slated to receive $14,882,200. That is about 37 percent more than the $10,883,354 million district officials said was expected in state matching funds for a $38.5 million bond approved last year to build a new elementary school and convert Meadow Brook and Sager schools into a middle and high school.

Case said the increase was due to how matching funds are calculated by the state. At the time the bond was being proposed, the $10.9 million figure “was the best number the state could give us,” he said. Now that planning has advanced, that number has changed.

The $14.8 million is the maximum amount the district qualifies for, said Tim Payne, district superintendent. In order to receive the state matching funds, district officials must first satisfy all the requirements laid down by OSPI and pass multiple reviews. “Only then will you get the letter saying you’re authorized for the funds,” he said.

Although estimates have been made of how much the construction will cost, Case and Payne pointed out those figures can change quickly due to unforeseen circumstances and additional requirements.

“The cost of the work that needs to be done is going to be more than was estimated,” Case said.

Payne, however, said at as of now “we’re delivering the exact scope (of construction) ...We’re right where we need to be.”

Case and Payne both said the only dollars that are certain at this time is the amount of the bond and the board has not changed its position on returning any surplus funds to the voters.

“The board and I are absolutely committed to building what we promised and if there’s money left over, it goes back to the people,” Payne said.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

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